Occurrence of hyaline droplets in renal biopsy specimens: an ultrastructural study

Med Mol Morphol. 2005 Mar;38(1):63-71. doi: 10.1007/s00795-004-0272-1.


Hyaline droplets are apical cytoplasmic vesicles containing an accumulation of electron-dense amorphous materials surrounded by a unit membrane. Hyaline droplets may originate from apical vesicles after conversion to osmotic vesicles and loss of internally lined glycocalyx. They are found in the proximal tubular epithelium in biopsies from patients with renal diseases; however, their biological importance is not well understood. We reviewed ultrastructural pathology records of 140 renal biopsy patients to determine the occurrence and relevance of hyaline droplets. Of the cases, 14 (10%) showed the presence of hyaline droplets in proximal tubular epithelium. The distribution of cases were 8 of the 19 (42%) with minimal change nephritic syndrome, 2 of the 37 (5%) with IgA nephropathy, 2 of the 4 (50%) with membranous glomerulonephropathy, 1 of the 4 (25%) with tubulointerstitial nephritis, and 1 of the 1 (100%) with acute renal failure. The droplets were frequently found in male patients (86%), never in children, and were mostly associated with tubular necrosis (8 of 14 cases; 56%). Many hyaline droplets were observed in the cytoplasm of necrotic proximal tubular epithelial cells, and even when tubular necrosis was not evident, the proximal tubular epithelial cells containing hyaline droplets showed degenerated microvilli and decreased basal interdigitations. These results suggest that hyaline droplets could be one marker of renal tubular necrosis and a sign of functional disorder of protein reabsorption by degenerating proximal tubular epithelium.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyalin / chemistry
  • Hyalin / ultrastructure*
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / pathology
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / ultrastructure*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged