Treponemal antigen in immunopathogenesis of syphilitic glomerulonephritis

Am J Pathol. 1976 Mar;82(3):479-92.


A patient with syphilitic glomerulonephritis had a renal biopsy and was treated for secondary syphilis. Light, electron, and immunofluorescence microscopic studies revealed an acute proliferative glomerulonephritis with subepithelial, intramembranous, and subendothelial immune complex deposits containing IgG, IgA, IgM, C4, and C3. Similar local deposits containing predominantly IgM were noted in areas of mesangial proliferation. Indirect fluorescent antibody studies employing rabbit treponemal antibody and sheep antirabbit globulin conjugate revealed the presence of treponemal antigen in the glomerular deposits. This finding provides strong evidence for the immunopathogenesis of the glomerular lesion as well as a causal link with Treponema pallidum.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Antigens, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Glomerulonephritis / etiology*
  • Glomerulonephritis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune Complex Diseases / etiology*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / immunology
  • Male
  • Syphilis / complications*
  • Syphilis / immunology
  • Treponema pallidum / immunology


  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Antigens, Bacterial