Role of CD8+ T cells in crescentic glomerulonephritis

Anqun Chen, Kyung Lee, Tianjun Guan, John Cijiang He, Detlef Schlondorff

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Crescentic glomerulonephritis (cGN) comprises three main types according to the pathogenesis and immunofluorescence patterns: anti-glomerular basement membrane antibody cGN, vasculitis-associated cGN and post-infectious immune complex cGN. In this brief review of the immune-pathogenesis of cGN, the focus is mainly on the role of CD8+ T cells in the progression of cGN. Under control conditions, Bowman's capsule (BC) provides a protected immunological niche by preventing access of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells to Bowman's space and thereby podocytes. Even in experimental nephrotoxic nephritis, leukocytes accumulate around the glomeruli, but remain outside of BC, as long as the latter remains intact. However, when and where breaches in BC occur, the inflammatory cells can gain access to and destroy podocytes, thus converting cGN into rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis (RPGN). These conclusions also apply to human cGN, where biopsies show that loss of BC integrity is associated with RPGN and progression to end-stage kidney disease. We propose a two-hit hypothesis for the role of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells in the progression of cGN. The initial insult occurs in response to the immune complex formation or deposition, resulting in local capillary and podocyte injury (first hit). The injured podocytes release neo-epitopes, eventually causing T-cell activation and migration to the glomerulus. Upon generation of breaches in BC, macrophages and CD8+ T cells can now gain access to the glomerular space and destroy neo-epitope expressing podocytes (second hit), resulting in RPGN. While further investigation will be required to test this hypothesis, future therapeutic trials should consider targeting of CD8+ T cells in the therapy of progressive cGN.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-572
Number of pages9
JournalNephrology Dialysis Transplantation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • ANCA
  • Crescentic glomerulonephritis
  • Glomerulonephritis podocytes
  • Immunology
  • Membranoproliferative


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