Kidney Biopsy Features Most Predictive of Clinical Outcomes in the Spectrum of Minimal Change Disease and Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2022 Jul;33(7):1411-1426. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2021101396. Epub 2022 May 17.


Background: Heterogeneity in disease course and treatment response among patients with MCD/FSGS necessitates a granular evaluation of kidney tissue features. This study aimed to identify histologic and ultrastructural descriptors of structural changes most predictive of clinical outcomes in the Nephrotic Syndrome Study Network (NEPTUNE).

Methods: Forty-eight histologic (37 glomerular, 9 tubulointerstitial, 2 vascular) and 20 ultrastructural descriptors were quantified by applying the NEPTUNE Digital Pathology Scoring System to NEPTUNE kidney biopsies. Outcomes included time from biopsy to disease progression, first complete remission of proteinuria, and treatment response. Relative importance of pathology and clinical predictors was obtained from random forest models, and predictive discrimination was assessed.

Results: Among 224 participants (34% Black, 24% Hispanic), model performance was excellent, with predictive discrimination of 0.9 for disease progression, 0.85 for complete remission, and 0.81 for treatment response. The most predictive descriptors of outcomes included both conventional-e.g., global sclerosis or segmental sclerosis and interstitial fibrosis/tubular atrophy-and novel features, including adhesion, interstitial foam cells, deflation, periglomerular fibrosis, mononuclear white blood cells, endothelial cell abnormalities, microvillous transformation, and acute tubular injury.

Conclusions: The most predictive descriptors of clinical outcomes among MCD/FSGS patients reflected structural changes in multiple renal compartments. Reporting these descriptors should be standardized to guide prognostication of proteinuric glomerular diseases.

Keywords: glomerular disease; kidney biopsy; nephrotic syndrome; outcome prediction; renal morphology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Disease Progression
  • Fibrosis
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney Diseases* / pathology
  • Nephrosis, Lipoid* / pathology
  • Nephrotic Syndrome* / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Sclerosis