Complement factor C4d was recently observed in renal biopsies from patients who had IgA nephropathy and a poor prognosis. We previously reported that C4d is a common denominator in microangiopathies. In this retrospective cohort study, we investigated whether C4d is a marker of microangiopathy in both IgA nephropathy and IgA vasculitis with nephritis, and whether patients with C4d and microangiopathy have poor renal outcome. We examined 128 renal biopsies from adult and pediatric patients, including normotensive and hypertensive patients, who presented with IgA nephropathy or IgA vasculitis with nephritis. Biopsies were re-evaluated in accordance with the Oxford classification, scored for additional lesions, and stained for complement proteins using immunohistochemistry, including C4d and C5b-9. Clinical data were collected with a mean (±SD) follow-up period of 51 ± 39 months. Changes in estimated glomerular filtration rate over time were compared using linear mixed-effects models. Renal survival was analyzed using multivariable Cox regression. Microangiopathic lesions were present in 20% of all biopsies (23% and 9% of patients with IgA nephropathy and IgA vasculitis with nephritis, respectively). Microangiopathy was associated with C4d and C5b-9 deposits, a higher number of chronic lesions, and hypertension (all p < 0.05). Patients with C4d and microangiopathic lesions had significantly poorer renal survival than patients without these findings, corrected for hypertension (p < 0.01). In conclusion, patients with IgA nephropathy or IgA vasculitis with nephritis with a combination of C4d positivity and microangiopathy comprise a clinical subgroup with an increased number of chronic lesions, lower estimated glomerular filtration rate, and poorer renal survival, even when corrected for hypertension. These data suggest that complement activation is involved in the development of microangiopathy in patients with IgA nephropathy and IgA vasculitis with nephritis, and that complement-mediated microangiopathy contributes to disease progression.
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We are grateful to Annelies E. Berden, Marjolijn van Buren, Jade Chantharasy, Karlien Cransberg, Hans C. Ablij, Stefan P. Berger, Bas A. Gabreëls, Hans G. Peltenburg, and Yvo W.J. Sijpkens for their help obtaining the clinical data that were used in this study. The results presented in this paper have not been published previously except in abstract form at Kidney Week 2015, the Annual American Society of Nephrology Conference.