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Kidney Dis (Basel). 2015 Sep;1(2):91-9. doi: 10.1159/000431278. Epub 2015 Jun 30.

Complement in Lupus Nephritis: New Perspectives.

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Section of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill., USA.
Division of Nephrology, University at Buffalo School of Medicine, Buffalo, N.Y., USA.



Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder caused by loss of tolerance to self-antigens, the production of autoantibodies and deposition of complement-fixing immune complexes (ICs) in injured tissues. SLE is characterized by a wide range of clinical manifestations and targeted organs, with lupus nephritis being one of the most serious complications. The complement system consists of three pathways and is tightly controlled by a set of regulatory proteins to prevent injudicious complement activation on host tissue. The involvement of the complement system in the pathogenesis of SLE is well accepted; yet, its exact role is still not clear.


Complement plays dual roles in the pathogenesis of SLE. On the one hand, the complement system appears to have protective features in that hereditary homozygous deficiencies of classical pathway components, such as C1q and C4, are associated with an increased risk for SLE. On the other hand, IC-mediated activation of complement in affected tissues is clearly evident in both experimental and human SLE along with pathological features that are logical consequences of complement activation. Studies in genetically altered mice have shown that lack of complement inhibitors, such as complement factor H (CFH) or decay-accelerating factor (DAF) accelerates the development of experimental lupus nephritis, while treatment with recombinant protein inhibitors, such as Crry-Ig, CR2-Crry, CR2-DAF and CR2-CFH, ameliorates the disease development. Complement-targeted drugs, including soluble complement receptor 1 (TP10), C1 esterase inhibitor and a monoclonal anti-C5 antibody (eculizumab), have been shown to inhibit complement safely, and are now being investigated in a variety of clinical conditions.


SLE is an autoimmune disorder which targets multiple systems. Complement is centrally involved and plays dual roles in the pathogenesis of SLE. Studies from experimental lupus models and clinical trials support the use of complement-targeted therapy in the treatment of SLE.


Animal model; Complement; Lupus nephritis; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Therapy

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