The autoantigen(s) that we have previously described in human glomeruli, recognized in IgA nephropathy, has (have) been identified as mesangial cell in origin. Cultured mesangial cells expressed 48- and 55-kD components binding IgG isotype autoantibodies (IgG-MESCA) present in sera of patients with both IgA nephropathy and Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP). IgG-MESCA were not detected in sera of normals, or patients with other autoimmune-mediated glomerulonephritides: anti-glomerular basement membrane disease, Wegener's granulomatosis, or in IgM-mesangial proliferative disease. Binding specificity was proven by F(ab')2 studies in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and Western blotting, and there was no significant affinity of IgA or IgM immunoglobulins. Fluorescein isothiocyanate-conjugated IgG from ELISA-positive sera localized to the mesangium and peripheral capillary loops of glomeruli, supporting the belief that the antigen is expressed in normal human renal tissue. However, only about one third of mesangial cells in culture showed affinity for IgG from ELISA-positive sera, suggesting variable expression of the antigen(s) in vitro. The only autoantigen(s) present in glomeruli, and extractable from whole normal glomeruli by the techniques employed, localized on the mesangial cell. In both IgA nephropathy and HSP, autoimmunity was intermittently present, with fluctuating levels of IgG-MESCA detectable in sera. There were positive correlations with the degree of glomerular injury assessed by erythrocyturia and proteinuria in IgA nephropathy, but significance was reached with only the degree of hematuria in HSP. These findings suggest a contributing role in the pathogenesis of the mesangial proliferative lesions and demonstrate autoimmunity common to both IgA nephropathy and HSP.


D J O'Donoghue, A Darvill, F W Ballardie


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