Antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies and associated diseases: a review

Am J Kidney Dis. 1990 Jun;15(6):517-29. doi: 10.1016/s0272-6386(12)80521-x.


Antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies (ANCA) are specific for constituents of neutrophil primary granules and monocyte lysosomes. There are different types of ANCA with different specificities. By indirect immunofluorescence microscopy using alcohol-fixed neutrophils as substrate, two major categories of ANCA can be recognized, one with cytoplasmic staining (C-ANCA) and the other with artifactual perinuclear staining (P-ANCA). Some C-ANCA have specificity for proteinase 3 (PR3-ANCA) and some P-ANCA have specificity for myeloperoxidase (MPO-ANCA), but there are additional C-ANCA and P-ANCA specificities. ANCA are found in the blood of patients with necrotizing systemic vasculitis, such as Wegener's granulomatosis and polyarteritis nodosa, and patients with idiopathic crescentic glomerulonephritis. The glomerular lesion in patients with systemic and renal-limited ANCA-associated diseases is the same, ie, a pauci-immune necrotizing and crescentic glomerulonephritis. No matter where the vascular lesions of ANCA-associated disease are (eg, kidney, lung, gut, muscle, skin), they are characterized by necrotizing inflammation and a paucity of immune deposits. The distribution of disease correlates to a degree with the ANCA specificity, although there is substantial overlap. For example, patients with Wegener's granulomatosis most often have C-ANCA and patients with renal-limited disease most often have P-ANCA. In patients with P-ANCA-associated glomerulonephritis, approximately 90% of the P-ANCA have specificity for MPO. The clinical manifestations of ANCA-associated diseases often begin following a flu-like illness. The onset is most often in the winter and least often in the summer. The renal disease usually presents as rapidly progressive renal failure with nephritis. One of the most life-threatening components of the systemic involvement is pulmonary hemorrhage caused by a necrotizing alveolar capillaritis. Intravenous cyclophosphamide plus steroids is as effective as oral cyclophosphamide plus steroids for controlling ANCA-associated diseases. Using life-table analysis, the 2-year patient and renal survival rate in both patients with renal-limited and systemic disease is greater than 70%. There is evidence that in addition to being a useful serologic marker, ANCA are directly involved in the pathogenesis of the vascular injury in patients with ANCA-associated diseases. Although ANCA antigens are normally in the cytoplasm of neutrophils and monocytes, priming of these cells, as occurs following exposure to certain cytokines, results in the release of small amounts of ANCA antigens at the cell surface. In vitro, ANCA-IgG causes cytokine-primed neutrophils to undergo a respiratory burst and degranulation.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Autoantibodies / isolation & purification*
  • Cytoplasm / immunology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Glomerulonephritis / diagnosis
  • Glomerulonephritis / immunology*
  • Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Polyarteritis Nodosa / immunology


  • Autoantibodies