Factor H-Related Protein 1 Drives Disease Susceptibility and Prognosis in C3 Glomerulopathy

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2022 Jun;33(6):1137-1153. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2021101318. Epub 2022 May 11.


Background: C3 glomerulopathy (C3G) is a heterogeneous group of chronic renal diseases characterized predominantly by glomerular C3 deposition and complement dysregulation. Mutations in factor H-related (FHR) proteins resulting in duplicated dimerization domains are prototypical of C3G, although the underlying pathogenic mechanism is unclear.

Methods: Using in vitro and in vivo assays, we performed extensive characterization of an FHR-1 mutant with a duplicated dimerization domain. To assess the FHR-1 mutant's association with disease susceptibility and renal prognosis, we also analyzed CFHR1 copy number variations and FHR-1 plasma levels in two Spanish C3G cohorts and in a control population.

Results: Duplication of the dimerization domain conferred FHR-1 with an increased capacity to interact with C3-opsonized surfaces, which resulted in an excessive activation of the alternative pathway. This activation does not involve C3b binding competition with factor H. These findings support a scenario in which mutant FHR-1 binds to C3-activated fragments and recruits native C3 and C3b; this leads to formation of alternative pathway C3 convertases, which increases deposition of C3b molecules, overcoming FH regulation. This suggests that a balanced FHR-1/FH ratio is crucial to control complement amplification on opsonized surfaces. Consistent with this conceptual framework, we show that the genetic deficiency of FHR-1 or decreased FHR-1 in plasma confers protection against developing C3G and associates with better renal outcome.

Conclusions: Our findings explain how FHR-1 mutants with duplicated dimerization domains result in predisposition to C3G. They also provide a pathogenic mechanism that may be shared by other diseases, such as IgA nephropathy or age-related macular degeneration, and identify FHR-1 as a potential novel therapeutic target in C3G.

Keywords: C3 glomerulopathy; complement; disease susceptibility; factor H-related protein 1; genetic renal disease; glomerular disease; prognosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Proteins
  • Complement C3 / genetics
  • Complement C3 / metabolism
  • Complement C3b Inactivator Proteins* / genetics
  • Complement C3b Inactivator Proteins* / metabolism
  • Complement Factor H / genetics
  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Glomerulonephritis, IGA* / genetics
  • Glomerulonephritis, IGA* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Prognosis


  • Blood Proteins
  • CFHR1 protein, human
  • Complement C3
  • Complement C3b Inactivator Proteins
  • Complement Factor H