Although the clinical onset of IgA nephropathy is frequently impossible to define, macroscopic hematuria apparently heralds the onset of the disease in some patients. We describe the clinical course and renal histologic findings of four adults with IgA nephropathy who were diagnosed by the characteristic immunohistologic features in a second renal biopsy specimen. IgA was not detected in the initial renal biopsy specimens obtained 9 months to 4 years earlier. The first renal biopsy had been performed to evaluate macroscopic hematuria (recurrent in three patients), accompanied by pathologic proteinuria in two patients. Our observations suggest that the pathognomonic immunohistologic findings of IgA nephropathy may follow the clinical onset and raise questions about the presumed pathogenetic role of IgA in the early stages of this disease. © 1991, National Kidney Foundation, Inc.. All rights reserved.