The mucosa-kidney axis in IgA nephropathy

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2016 Mar;12(3):147-56. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2015.208. Epub 2015 Dec 30.


Links between IgA nephropathy (IgAN) and the mucosa have been recognized since the 1970s. In particular, the observation of visible haematuria induced by respiratory infections in patients with IgAN and the association of IgAN with diseases in which the mucosa plays a part, especially coeliac disease, have been taken as evidence of a mucosa-kidney axis. Here, we review current evidence that links the mucosa, in particular the gastrointestinal mucosa, and IgA produced by the bone marrow with IgAN. Genome-wide association studies in patients with IgAN have identified risk loci in genes involved in the intestinal mucosal integrity and immune network. Furthermore, the systemic immune response to mucosal antigens in IgAN is increased. Moreover, patients with IgAN have an increased reactivity to dietary proteins associated with subclinical intestinal mucosal inflammation. Associations between IgAN and gastrointestinal diseases have also been reported in a small number of patients, but whether these diseases share a common pathogenesis or whether gastrointestinal inflammation exacerbates IgAN is uncertain. Indeed, mucosal alterations such as infections could activate the innate immune system, aggravate a pre-existing IgAN and promote disease manifestations such as macrohaematuria. Various clinical interventions and trials targeting the mucosa or presumed mucosa-associated mechanisms have so far not yielded consistent findings and the results of ongoing trials are eagerly awaited.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology*
  • Glomerulonephritis, IGA / etiology*
  • Glomerulonephritis, IGA / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / physiology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology*


  • Immunoglobulin A