Renal disease in systemic lupus erythematosus with emphasis on classification of lupus glomerulonephritis: advances and implications

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2009 Feb;133(2):233-48. doi: 10.5858/133.2.233.


Context: Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease with protean clinical and pathologic manifestations involving almost all organs in the body. There is a high incidence of renal involvement during the course of the disease, with varied renal pathologic lesions and diverse clinical features. A renal biopsy examined by routine light microscopy, immunofluorescence, and electron microscopy contributes toward diagnosis, prognostic information, and appropriate management.

Objectives: (1) To review the clinical and various pathologic features of renal lesions in systemic lupus erythematosus patients. (2) To introduce the International Society of Nephrology and Renal Pathology Society Classification of Lupus Glomerulonephritis.

Data sources: A literature review, illustrations with original artwork, and tabulation of clinical and pathologic data of cases obtained from the authors' renal biopsy files examined during the last 8 years were used.

Conclusions: The International Society of Nephrology/ Renal Pathology Society-sponsored Classification of Lupus Glomerulonephritis proposes standardized definitions of the various pathologic findings, describes clinically relevant lesions, incorporates prognostic parameters, and recommends a uniform way of reporting the renal biopsy findings. Lupus glomerulonephritis is divided into 6 classes primarily based on the morphologic lesions, extent and severity of the involvement, immune complex deposition, and activity and chronicity. Special emphasis is laid on describing qualitative as well as quantitative morphologic data and to include the accompanying tubulointerstitial disease and different vascular lesions, which have prognostic and therapeutic significance. This classification is intended to facilitate a higher degree of reproducibility, resulting in better patient care and more effective future clinical and translational research. Renal biopsy findings in systemic lupus erythematosus add new and independent parameters of prognostic significance to established clinical and genetic factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Humans
  • Kidney Glomerulus / pathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Lupus Nephritis / classification*
  • Lupus Nephritis / etiology*
  • Lupus Nephritis / pathology
  • Prognosis