Nephritic Factors: An Overview of Classification, Diagnostic Tools and Clinical Associations

Front Immunol. 2019 Apr 24:10:886. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.00886. eCollection 2019.


Nephritic factors comprise a heterogeneous group of autoantibodies against neoepitopes generated in the C3 and C5 convertases of the complement system, causing its dysregulation. Classification of these autoantibodies can be clustered according to their stabilization of different convertases either from the classical or alternative pathway. The first nephritic factor described with the capacity to stabilize C3 convertase of the alternative pathway was C3 nephritic factor (C3NeF). Another nephritic factor has been characterized by the ability to stabilize C5 convertase of the alternative pathway (C5NeF). In addition, there are autoantibodies against assembled C3/C5 convertase of the classical and lectin pathways (C4NeF). These autoantibodies have been mainly associated with kidney diseases, like C3 glomerulopathy and immune complex-associated-membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis. Other clinical situations where these autoantibodies have been observed include infections and autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus and acquired partial lipodystrophy. C3 hypocomplementemia is a common finding in all patients with nephritic factors. The methods to measure nephritic factors are not standardized, technically complex, and lack of an appropriate quality control. This review will be focused in the description of the mechanism of action of the three known nephritic factors (C3NeF, C4NeF, and C5NeF), and their association with human diseases. Moreover, we present an overview regarding the diagnostic tools for its detection, and the main therapeutic approach for the patients with nephritic factors.

Keywords: C3 glomerulopathy; complement system; eculizumab; lipodystrophy; nephritic factor.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / immunology*
  • Complement Activation / immunology
  • Complement C3 Nephritic Factor / immunology
  • Complement C3-C5 Convertases / immunology
  • Complement C3a / immunology
  • Complement C3a / metabolism
  • Complement C5a / immunology
  • Complement C5a / metabolism
  • Complement System Proteins / immunology*
  • Disease Management
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Epitopes / immunology*
  • Glomerulonephritis / diagnosis
  • Glomerulonephritis / etiology
  • Glomerulonephritis / metabolism
  • Glomerulonephritis / therapy
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques


  • Autoantibodies
  • Complement C3 Nephritic Factor
  • Epitopes
  • complement 4 nephritic factor
  • Complement C3a
  • Complement C5a
  • Complement System Proteins
  • Complement C3-C5 Convertases