Background. Circulating immune complexes (CIC) containing galactose (Gal)-deficient IgA1 from adults with IgA nephropathy (IgAN) induce proliferation of cultured mesangial cells, but activities of CIC from pediatric patients with the disease have not been studied.Methods. CIC of different sizes were isolated from sera of pediatric and adult IgAN patients and their effects on cultured human mesangial cells (MC) were assessed by measuring cellular proliferation, expression of IL-6 and IL-8 and laminin and phosphotyrosine signaling.Results. Large CIC from pediatric IgAN patients (>800 kDa) containing Gal-deficient IgA1 stimulated cellular proliferation, whereas in some patients, smaller CIC were inhibitory. Addition of stimulatory and inhibitory CIC to MC differentially altered phosphorylation patterns of three major tyrosine-phosphorylated proteins of molecular mass 37, 60 and 115 kDa. The stimulatory CIC transiently increased tyrosine-phosphorylation of the 37-kDa protein and decreased phosphorylation of the other two proteins, whereas the inhibitory CIC increased phosphorylation of all three proteins. Furthermore, we investigated the influence of IgA1-containing CIC from sera of children with IgAN with clinically active disease (i.e., abnormal urinalysis and/or serum creatinine concentration) or inactive disease (i.e., normal urinalysis and serum creatinine concentration) on the expression of IL-6 and IL-8 genes by mesangial cells. Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction results showed that the CIC from a patient with active disease stimulated MC to express the two cytokine genes at higher levels than did the CIC from a patient with inactive disease. Moreover, stimulatory CIC increased production of the extracellular matrix protein laminin.Conclusion. These data indicate that sera of pediatric IgAN patients contain biologically active CIC with Gal-deficient IgA1. © The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of ERA-EDTA. All rights reserved.