Nonlupus nephritides in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: a comprehensive clinicopathologic study and review of the literature

Hum Pathol. 2001 Oct;32(10):1125-35. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2001.28227.


Renal biopsy specimens from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) rarely show changes that are pathogenetically and morphologically unrelated to SLE. The morphology and behavior of these nonlupus nephritides are not well known. Two hundred fifty-two renal biopsies performed on 224 patients with SLE collected from 3,036 native kidney biopsies performed between 1975 and 1998 were reviewed, and those that showed nonlupus nephritides (index biopsies) were selected for studies. Thirteen biopsy specimens with nonlupus nephritides were identified in 13 patients, who belonged to 3 clinically distinct groups. Group I included 6 patients in whom SLE was diagnosed at the time of index biopsies. The index biopsies in these patients showed focal segmental glomerusclerosis (FSGS; 3 cases), Immunoglobulin (Ig) M nephropathy (1 case), and thin basement membrane disease (1 case). The diagnostic features for FSGS included segmental sclerosis involving at least 1 glomerulus, absence of lupus nephritis or other conditions that may cause nonspecific segmental sclerosis of glomeruli such as ischemia or nephrosclerosis, and nephrotic-range proteinuria. There was uniform, global, diffuse and marked thinning of the glomerular basement membrane in the case of thin basement membrane disease. Group II included 3 patients in whom SLE was diagnosed 2 to 9 years before the time of index biopsies and SLE was active at the time of biopsy. The index biopsies in these patients showed FSGS (2 cases) and hypertensive nephrosclerosis (1 case). Group III included 4 patients in whom SLE was diagnosed 5 to 36 years before the time of index biopsies and SLE was inactive at the time of biopsy. The index biopsies in these patients showed 1 case each of amyloidosis, FSGS, hypertensive nephrosclerosis, and allergic acute tubulointerstitial nephritis. Previous renal biopsies, performed in 5 patients, showed IgM nephropathy (1 case), diffuse proliferative lupus GN (1 case), focal proliferative lupus GN (1 case), and mesangial proliferative lupus GN (2 cases). Follow-up biopsies, performed in 3 patients, confirmed the diagnosis of FSGS (2 cases) and hypertensive nephrosclerosis (1 case) noted in the index biopsies. Nonlupus nephritides may occasionally be encountered in SLE patients, regardless of clinical or serologic disease activity. These renal lesions display a broad morphologic spectrum in which FSGS seems most frequent. Renal biopsy plays a crucial role in identifying these lesions, which may have prognostic and therapeutic implications distinct from those of lupus nephritis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Glomerular Basement Membrane Disease / pathology
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood
  • Biopsy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous / metabolism
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous / pathology
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin M / metabolism
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / pathology*
  • Lupus Nephritis / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephritis / blood
  • Nephritis / complications
  • Nephritis / pathology*


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Immunoglobulin M