Animal models are indispensable for the study of glomerulonephritis, a group of diseases that destroy kidneys but for which specific therapies do not yet exist. Novel interventions are urgently needed, but their rational design requires suitable in vivo platforms to identify and test new candidates. Animal models can recreate the complex immunologic microenvironments that foster human autoimmunity and nephritis and provide access to tissue compartments not readily examined in patients. Study of rat Heymann nephritis identified fundamental disease mechanisms that ultimately revolutionized our understanding of human membranous nephropathy. Significant species differences in expression of a major target antigen, however, and lack of spontaneous autoimmunity in animals remain roadblocks to full exploitation of preclinical models in this disease. For several glomerulonephritides, humanized models have been developed to circumvent cross-species barriers and to study the effects of human genetic risk variants. Herein we review humanized mouse prototypes that provide fresh insight into mediators of IgA nephropathy and origins of antiglomerular basement membrane nephritis and Goodpasture's disease, as well as a means to test novel therapies for ANCA vasculitis. Additional and refined model systems are needed to mirror the full spectrum of human disease in a genetically diverse population, to facilitate development of patient-specific interventions, to determine the origin of nephritogenic autoimmunity, and to define the role of environmental exposures in disease initiation and relapse.
Keywords: glomerulonephritis; humanized model; translational.