The glomerulonephritides are a collection of separate diseases with differing pathogeneses that collectively are common and important causes of renal disease. Effective, non-toxic immunomodulatory treatments for glomerulonephritis are lacking. This review will focus on our understanding of the role of leukocytes in immune glomerular disease, specifically in severe and rapidly progressive forms of glomerulonephritis, and provide examples of potential therapeutic targets. The glomerulus is a high flow, high pressure capillary plexus bounded by arterioles that is vulnerable to a variety of immune or inflammatory insults. The variety in the pathogenesis of different forms of glomerulonephritis, together with the capacity of both humoral and cellular effector arms to induce injury, means that understanding the pathogenesis of glomerulonephritis is necessary to effectively apply new treatments. Leukocytes are involved in the pathogenesis of glomerulonephritis at several levels, including the loss of tolerance, adaptive immune responses directed by T cells, cellular effectors inducing injury in delayed type hypersensitivity-like reactions, and by macrophage/neutrophil recruitment via the deposition of circulating immune complexes or in situ immune complexes. Evidence is emerging that anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies activate neutrophils, leading to glomerular capillaritis. Some therapeutic options limit local inflammation, while others modify the underlying pathogenetic immune response. Areas of current interest include the relationship between infiltrating and local cells, limiting effector cell activation, particularly macrophages; as well as understanding and targeting leukocyte recruitment to this unique vasculature. Modifying pathogenetic T or B cells also is a promising strategy in both systemic autoimmunity affecting the kidney and organ specific autoimmunity.
Keywords: Glomerulonephritis, vasculitis, lupus nephritis, crescentic glomerulonephritis, drug therapy, leukocyte, T lymphocyte, macrophage
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