Nephrogenic adenoma of the urinary tract: a review

Int J Surg Pathol. 2012 Apr;20(2):123-31. doi: 10.1177/1066896912439095. Epub 2012 Mar 13.


Nephrogenic adenoma (NA) is an uncommon and intriguing lesion in the urinary tract. The pathogenesis of NA is not entirely clear. NA was considered to be a metaplastic process of the urothelium in response to chronic irritation of the urinary tract. However, recent evidence has shown that NA is not a metaplastic lesion but rather a proliferation of exfoliated and implanted renal epithelial cells in the urinary tract. Histologically, NAs exhibit, singly or in combination, tubules, small papillae, and microcystic structures lined by cells with little cytological atypia and focal hobnail changes. Solid formations and compressed spindled cells within a fibromyxoid background are rarely observed. Differential diagnosis includes, but is not limited to, malignant neoplasms occurring at the same sites, in particular urothelial carcinoma with deceptively bland morphology (with small tubules, microcystic and nested variants), prostatic adenocarcinoma, and clear cell adenocarcinoma. Immunohistochemical studies with antibodies targeting members of the paired box gene family (PAX2 and/or PAX8) in NAs may be helpful in the differential diagnosis of urothelial lesions and prostatic adenocarcinoma. NAs are most likely to be confused with clear cell adenocarcinoma, especially in small biopsy specimens. This is confounded by both lesions being frequently positive for PAX2, PAX8, and CK7 and not infrequently positive for p504S (α-methylacyl-CoA-racemase, AMACR) by immunohistochemistry. Recognition of its characteristic morphological patterns and awareness of its unusual architectural and cytological features are important in making the diagnosis of NA and distinguishing this lesion from its mimickers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Clear Cell / diagnosis
  • Adenoma / diagnosis*
  • Adenoma / metabolism
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / diagnosis
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Urologic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Urologic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Urothelium / metabolism
  • Urothelium / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor