CD20-positive infiltrates in human membranous glomerulonephritis

J Nephrol. May-Jun 2005;18(3):328-33.


Membranous glomerulonephritis (MGN), histologically defined by subepithelial immune deposits, is the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome in Caucasian adults. The current hypothesis of the underlying disease mechanism postulates production of antibodies against podocyte-derived antigens. Respective antigens could be demonstrated in different animal models and recently in human neonatal MGN. Further support for this hypothesis was generated by the response of human MGN to therapeutic B cell depletion by rituximab. However, the role of B cells in this disease is not well defined. In this study, the interstitial expression of CD20 mRNA was determined in 31 MGN patients and controls (tumor nephrectomies (n = 4), minimal change disease (MCD, n = 10) and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (n = 6)). CD20 mRNA expression was significantly higher in MGN patients compared to controls. By immunohistochemistry, a focal or diffuse interstitial B cell infiltration could be detected in MGN patients (n = 63), which was absent or minimal in patients with MCD (n = 11). These data suggest an involvement of B cells in the pathogenesis of MGN, possibly as antigen-presenting cells. Further studies should investigate the potential to predict the response to therapeutic B cell depletion by intrarenal CD20 quantification, a potential diagnostic basis for the selection of a specific therapy currently evolving for renal disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD20* / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, CD20* / genetics
  • Antigens, CD20* / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Biopsy
  • Extracellular Fluid / metabolism
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous / genetics
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous / immunology
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • RNA / genetics*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Antigens, CD20
  • RNA