T cells and autoimmune kidney disease

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2017 Jun;13(6):329-343. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2017.34. Epub 2017 Mar 13.


Glomerulonephritis is traditionally considered to result from the invasion of the kidney by autoantibodies and immune complexes from the circulation or following their formation in situ, and by cells of the innate and the adaptive immune system. The inflammatory response leads to the proliferation and dysfunction of cells of the glomerulus, and invasion of the interstitial space with immune cells, resulting in tubular cell malfunction and fibrosis. T cells are critical drivers of autoimmunity and related organ damage, by supporting B-cell differentiation and antibody production or by directly promoting inflammation and cytotoxicity against kidney resident cells. T cells might become activated by autoantigens in the periphery and become polarized to secrete inflammatory cytokines before entering the kidney where they have the opportunity to expand owing to the presence of costimulatory molecules and activating cytokines. Alternatively, naive T cells could enter the kidney where they become activated after encountering autoantigen and expand locally. As not all individuals with a peripheral autoimmune response to kidney antigens develop glomerulonephritis, the contribution of local kidney factors expressed or produced by kidney cells is probably of crucial importance. Improved understanding of the biochemistry and molecular biology of T cells in patients with glomerulonephritis offers unique opportunities for the recognition of treatment targets for autoimmune kidney disease.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Glomerulonephritis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Kidney Diseases / immunology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Cytokines