Idiopathic membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis: does it exist?

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2012 Dec;27(12):4288-94. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfs288. Epub 2012 Jul 13.


When membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) was first delineated as a discrete clinico-pathological entity more than a half-century ago, most cases were regarded as idiopathic (or primary) in nature. Advances in analysis of pathogenetic mechanisms and etiologies underlying the lesion of MPGN have radically altered the prevalence of the truly idiopathic form of MPGN. In addition, MPGN as a category among renal biopsies showing glomerulonephritis has diminished over time. In the modern era, MPGN is mainly classified morphologically on the basis of immunoglobulin (Ig; monoclonal or polyclonal) and complement (C3 only or combined with Ig) deposition and secondarily on the basis of its appearance on ultra-structural examination. Idiopathic MPGN is a diagnosis of exclusion, at least in many adults and a portion of children, and a systematic approach to evaluation will often uncover a secondary cause, such as an infection, autoimmune disease, monoclonal gammopathy, neoplasia, complement dysregulation or a chronic thrombotic microangiopathy. Idiopathic MPGN remains an 'endangered species' after its separation from these known causes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranoproliferative* / classification
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranoproliferative* / etiology
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranoproliferative* / pathology
  • Humans