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Among patients with early severe impairment of renal allograft function we have previously identified a group displaying isolated deposition of complement factor C3 in glomeruli. Here we studied the pattern of complement deposition more extensively in allograft biopsies from five patients using an immunofluorescence technique. We found a prominent deposition of C3c, C3d and C4d antigens in the glomerular capillary walls, and a positive reaction to vitronectin (S-protein), but only trace amounts of the complement factor C9 neoepitope. Clq, C4c, C3a, iC3b, factor B, properdin, immunoglobulins IgG, IgA or IgM were not found in glomeruli or in any other cortical structure. These findings indicate that most of the demonstrated glomerular C3 consists of C3b and/or C3c/C3d molecules. By immunoelectron microscopy the C3 antigen was found within the glomerular basement membrane. Our findings indicate that there is a mechanism of complement activation involving the early steps of the classical pathway, despite the lack of demonstrable immunoglobulins in the tissue. In analogy with similar reactions described recently in heart allografts, we suggest that this may be a manifestation of a humoral rejection, possibly mediated by a low titer of circulating antibodies directed against endothelial surface antigens, presumed to be the initial step leading to complement activation.
Department of Clinical Chemistry, Huddinge University Hospital, Huddinge, and 2:
Transplant Unit, Department of Surgery, and 3:
Department of Clinical Immunology, Akademiska Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden 4:
Department of Pathology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, and