• complement;
  • cryoglobulin;
  • glomerulonephritis


A patient with chronic membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis is presented whose serum contains a monoclonal IgG3 cryoglobulin. The presence of persistent hypocomplementemia suggested the possibility that the cryoglobulin, upon cold-induced precipitation, was capable of activating the complement system. Because visible cryoprecipitation commenced in vitro at 30°C, the patient's serum and normal serum to which had been added the isolated cryoglobulin were repeatedly cooled to 30°C and rewarmed to 37°C. This reproduction of the in vivo counterpart of blood circulating through an extremity exposed to the cold resulted in activation of C3-proactivator (properdin factor B), C3 cleavage, and a 78% reduction in total hemolytic complement. This study demonstrates that IgG is capable of activating complement via the alternate pathway and reveals a mechanism through which this can occur in vivo; namely, by means of temperature dependent polymerization. In addition, we postulate that episodic complement activation initiated by the cryoglobulin contributed to the development of glomerulonephritis in this patient.