Background: Taking into consideration the key role of the complement system in renal diseases, we investigated molecular and cellular properties of the human complement C3a receptor (C3aR) in vitro and in situ, looking at its expression in several human renal pathological states.
Methods: Several antibodies were generated and used for immunohistochemistry and Western blot analyses to address C3aR expression and its regulation in vitro on cell lines of myeloid cells and nonmyeloid cell lineages. Furthermore, C3aR distribution was investigated in control nephrectomized kidneys and 116 biopsy specimens from patients with renal diseases, including lupus nephritis (lupus-N).
Results: C3aR is a highly N-glycosylated protein with an apparent molecular mass of 65 to 95 kd expressed by myeloid and endothelial cells. C3aR is particularly upregulated in response to interferon gamma treatment, but was unaffected by the other inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha and transforming growth factor beta. In normal human kidney, C3aR staining was not observed. However, glomerular C3aR staining was detected in 42.9% of lupus-N specimens in association with immunoglobulin G immune-complex depositions. Staining intensity correlated with disease severity. C3aR was found in the endothelial area of 81.3% of samples classified as World Health Organization class IV with active lesions. Conversely, C3aR was not detected by means of immunohistochemistry in kidneys from patients with other renal diseases.
Conclusion: Our data indicate that C3aR expression is tightly regulated and altered in certain disease conditions. C3aR may be used as a unique biomarker of diagnosis and disease activity in patients with lupus-N.