An alternative hypothesis on the role of chemically induced protein droplet (alpha 2u-globulin) nephropathy in renal carcinogenesis

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1992 Oct;16(2):111-25. doi: 10.1016/0273-2300(92)90052-b.


Based on associations between the accumulation of protein droplets containing alpha 2u-globulin in proximal tubular epithelial cells and increased incidences of renal tubular neoplasms in male rats, it has been suggested that the carcinogenicity of chemicals that cause alpha 2u-globulin nephropathy is unique to animals that synthesize this protein. Chemicals that caused alpha 2u-globulin nephropathy and renal carcinogenicity in male rats have not been shown to produce renal tumors in animals that lack the capability for hepatic alpha 2u-globulin synthesis, including female rats, male NBR rats, or mice of either sex. Because humans do not synthesize alpha 2u-globulin it has been suggested that chemicals which cause renal toxicity associated with alpha 2u-globulin accumulation do not pose an increased cancer risk to humans. In this review on the association between alpha 2u-globulin nephropathy and renal carcinogenesis, it is apparent that (a) there are data inconsistent with the hypothesis linking these occurrences, (b) alternative mechanisms of renal toxicity and carcinogenicity are plausible, (c) data on quantitative dose-response correspondences between the various stages of alpha 2u-globulin nephropathy and renal carcinogenicity are limited, and (d) a greater understanding of the molecular changes occurring during renal carcinogenesis is needed before assuming that the current hypothesis is correct. Future research aimed at resolving issues raised in this paper should help determine whether or not the association between alpha 2u-globulin nephropathy and renal carcinogenesis represents a cause-and-effect relationship.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alpha-Globulins / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyalin / drug effects
  • Hyalin / metabolism
  • Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Kidney Diseases / complications
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism
  • Kidney Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / etiology
  • Male
  • Rats


  • Alpha-Globulins
  • Hydrocarbons
  • alpha 2u globulin