Background and aims: Mesangial C3 deposition is frequently observed in patients with IgA nephropathy (IgAN). However, the role of complement in the pathogenesis or progression of IgAN is uncertain. In this observational cohort study, we aimed to identify the clinical implications of circulating C3 levels and mesangial C3 deposition and to investigate their utility as predictors of renal outcomes in patients with IgAN.
Methods: A total of 343 patients with biopsy-proven IgAN were enrolled between January 2000 and December 2008. Decreased serum C3 level (hypoC3) was defined as C3 <90 mg/dl. The study endpoint was end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and a doubling of the baseline serum creatinine (D-SCr).
Results: Of the patients, there were 66 patients (19.2%) with hypoC3. During a mean follow-up of 53.7 months, ESRD occurred in 5 patients (7.6%) with hypoC3 compared with 9 patients (3.2%) with normal C3 levels (P = 0.11). However, 12 patients (18.2%) with hypoC3 reached D-SCr compared with 17 patients (6.1%) with normal C3 levels [Hazard ratio (HR), 3.59; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.33-10.36; P = 0.018]. In a multivariable model in which serum C3 levels were treated as a continuous variable, hypoC3 significantly predicted renal outcome of D-SCr (per 1 mg/dl increase of C3; HR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.92-0.99; P = 0.011). The risk of reaching renal outcome was significantly higher in patients with mesangial C3 deposition 2+ to 3+ than in patients without deposition (HR 9.37; 95% CI, 1.10-80.26; P = 0.04).
Conclusions: This study showed that hypoC3 and mesangial C3 deposition were independent risk factors for progression, suggesting that complement activation may play a pathogenic role in patients with IgAN.