Renal epithelial neoplasms: the diagnostic implications of electron microscopic study in 55 cases

Hum Pathol. 2002 Jan;33(1):68-79. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2002.30210.


Several unsettled histogenetic, nosologic and diagnostic considerations for renal epithelial tumors may have ultrastructural ramifications. Yet, a comprehensive electron microscopic study of renal epithelial neoplasms, in light of the recent classification, is not available. The ultrastructural findings from fifty-five renal epithelial neoplasms [31 clear cell renal cell carcinomas (RCC), 11 papillary RCC, 5 chromophobe RCC, 3 sarcomatoid RCC and 5 oncocytomas] were correlated with their light microscopic appearance. Clear cell RCC showed long microvilli similar to the brush border of the normal proximal tubules, with abundant cytoplasmic lipid and glycogen. Papillary RCC showed variably sized microvilli, and small amounts of cytoplasmic lipid, but no glycogen. Chromophobe RCC showed many cytoplasmic vesicles and abnormal mitochondria, with rare short and stubby microvilli. Renal oncocytoma showed many mitochondria with a few vesicles in the apical portion of the cytoplasm and rare short and stubby microvilli. The eosinophilic cell variants of clear cell RCC, papillary RCC and chromophobe RCC showed ultrastructural features similar to those of their respective prototypes, except for an increased numbers of mitochondria in the cytoplasm. One sarcomatoid clear cell RCC showed skeletal muscle differentiation. Two types of cytoplasmic inclusions, i.e. hyaline globules and granules similar to those in the Paneth cells (PC-like granules) were identified only in clear cell RCC, which displayed distinctive ultrastructural features. The current EM study demonstrates distinctive ultrastructural features of renal epithelial neoplasms. The findings lend additional support to the current classification of the pertinent tumor types, facilitate the differential diagnoses, and provide insights into the possible histogenesis of renal epithelial neoplasms.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / classification
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / diagnosis
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / ultrastructure*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / classification
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / ultrastructure*
  • Cytoplasmic Structures / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / classification
  • Kidney Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Kidney Neoplasms / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microvilli / ultrastructure