CFH and CFHR Copy Number Variations in C3 Glomerulopathy and Immune Complex-Mediated Membranoproliferative Glomerulonephritis

Front Genet. 2021 Jun 11;12:670727. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.670727. eCollection 2021.


C3 Glomerulopathy (C3G) and Immune Complex-Mediated Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (IC-MPGN) are rare diseases characterized by glomerular deposition of C3 caused by dysregulation of the alternative pathway (AP) of complement. In approximately 20% of affected patients, dysregulation is driven by pathogenic variants in the two components of the AP C3 convertase, complement C3 (C3) and Factor B (CFB), or in complement Factor H (CFH) and Factor I (CFI), two genes that encode complement regulators. Copy number variations (CNVs) involving the CFH-related genes (CFHRs) that give rise to hybrid FHR proteins also have been described in a few C3G patients but not in IC-MPGN patients. In this study, we used multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) to study the genomic architecture of the CFH-CFHR region and characterize CNVs in a large cohort of patients with C3G (n = 103) and IC-MPGN (n = 96) compared to healthy controls (n = 100). We identified new/rare CNVs resulting in structural variants (SVs) in 5 C3G and 2 IC-MPGN patients. Using long-read single molecule real-time sequencing (SMRT), we detected the breakpoints of three SVs. The identified SVs included: 1) a deletion of the entire CFH in one patient with IC-MPGN; 2) an increased number of CFHR4 copies in one IC-MPGN and three C3G patients; 3) a deletion from CFHR3-intron 3 to CFHR3-3'UTR (CFHR34 - 6 Δ) that results in a FHR3-FHR1 hybrid protein in a C3G patient; and 4) a CFHR31 - 5-CFHR410 hybrid gene in a C3G patient. This work highlights the contribution of CFH-CFHR CNVs to the pathogenesis of both C3G and IC-MPGN.

Keywords: C3 glomerulopathy (C3G); complement; copy number variations (CNVs); factor H (FH); factor H-related proteins (FHRs); immune complex-mediated membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (IC-MPGN); single molecule real-time (SMRT); structural variants (SVs).