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BMC Nephrol. 2018 Sep 12;19(1):228. doi: 10.1186/s12882-018-1027-x.

Crescentic glomerulonephritis with anti-GBM antibody but no glomerular deposition.

Author information

UCL Centre for Nephrology, Royal Free Hospital, London, NW3 2PF, UK.
Centre for Complement and Inflammation Research, Division of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK.
III rd Medical Department (Internal Medicine, Nephrology, Rheumatology) Sana Klinikum Offenbach, Offenbach, Germany.
UCL Centre for Nephrology, Royal Free Hospital, London, NW3 2PF, UK.



Anti-glomerular basement membrane (GBM) antibodies are highly specific for Goodpasture's or anti-GBM disease, in which they are generally directed against the non-collagenous (NC1) domain of the alpha 3 chain of type IV collagen(α3(IV)), and less commonly, toward the α 4(IV) or α 5(IV) chains, which form a triple helical structure in GBM and alveolar basement membrane (ABM). Alterations in the hexameric structure of the NC1 (α3 (IV)), allows novel epitopes to be exposed and an immune response to develop, with subsequent linear antibody deposition along the GBM, leading to a crescentic glomerulonephritis. Positive anti-GBM antibodies are assumed to be pathogenic and capable of binding GBM in vivo, especially in the context of rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis. We have investigated patients with circulating anti-GBM antibodies, reactive to α3 (IV) and human GBM by immunoassays and Western blotting respectively, with focal necrotising crescentic glomerulonephritis but no linear GBM antibody deposition on immunohistochemistry. Three out of four were also ANCA positive. Despite not binding native GBM, patients' sera showed linear binding to primate glomeruli by indirect immunofluorescence, in the 2 cases tested. Following treatment, significant improvements in kidney function were found in 3/4 patients.


We present four patients with crescentic glomerulonephritis and circulating anti-GBM antibodies, but no glomerular binding.


These novel findings, demonstrate that in some patients anti-GBM antibodies may not bind their own GBM. This has important implications for clinical diagnosis, suggesting that histological confirmation of kidney injury by anti-GBM antibodies should be obtained, as non-binding GBM antibodies may be associated with significant renal recovery.


ANCA; Anti- glomerular basement membrane antibodies; Glomerulonephritis; Goodpasture’s disease; Linear binding

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