The role of the complement system in acute kidney injury

Semin Nephrol. 2013 Nov;33(6):543-56. doi: 10.1016/j.semnephrol.2013.08.005.


Acute kidney injury is a common and severe clinical problem. Patients who develop acute kidney injury are at increased risk of death despite supportive measures such as hemodialysis. Research in recent years has shown that tissue inflammation is central to the pathogenesis of renal injury, even after nonimmune insults such as ischemia/reperfusion and toxins. Examination of clinical samples and preclinical models has shown that activation of the complement system is a critical cause of acute kidney injury. Furthermore, complement activation within the injured kidney is a proximal trigger of many downstream inflammatory events within the renal parenchyma that exacerbate injury to the kidney. Complement activation also may account for the systemic inflammatory events that contribute to remote organ injury and patient mortality. Complement inhibitory drugs have now entered clinical use and may provide an important new therapeutic approach for patients suffering from, or at high risk of developing, acute kidney injury.

Keywords: Acute kidney injury; complement; ischemia/reperfusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / drug therapy
  • Acute Kidney Injury / physiopathology*
  • Acute Kidney Injury / prevention & control
  • Complement Activation / physiology
  • Complement Inactivating Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Complement System Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Ischemia / pathology
  • Kidney / immunology*
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Reperfusion Injury / immunology*
  • Reperfusion Injury / pathology


  • Complement Inactivating Agents
  • Complement System Proteins