Distal renal tubular acidosis with multiorgan autoimmunity: a case report

Am J Kidney Dis. 2015 Apr;65(4):607-10. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2014.09.026. Epub 2014 Dec 18.


A 61-year-old woman with a history of pernicious anemia presented with progressive muscle weakness and dysarthria. Hypokalemic paralysis (serum potassium, 1.4 mEq/L) due to distal renal tubular acidosis (dRTA) was diagnosed. After excluding several possible causes, dRTA was considered autoimmune. However, the patient did not meet criteria for any of the autoimmune disorders classically associated with dRTA. She had very high antibody titers against parietal cells, intrinsic factor, and thyroid peroxidase (despite normal thyroid function). The patient consented to a kidney biopsy, and acid-base transporters, anion exchanger type 1 (AE1), and pendrin were undetectable by immunofluorescence. Indirect immunofluorescence detected diminished abundance of AE1- and pendrin-expressing intercalated cells in the kidney, as well as staining by the patient's serum of normal human intercalated cells and parietal cells expressing the adenosine triphosphatase hydrogen/potassium pump (H(+)/K(+)-ATPase) in normal human gastric mucosa. The dRTA likely is caused by circulating autoantibodies against intercalated cells, with possible cross-reactivity against structures containing gastric H(+)/K(+)-ATPase. This case demonstrates that in patients with dRTA without a classic autoimmune disorder, autoimmunity may still be the underlying cause. The mechanisms involved in autoantibody development and how dRTA can be caused by highly specific autoantibodies against intercalated cells have yet to be determined.

Keywords: Distal renal tubular acidosis (dRTA); anion exchanger type 1 (AE1); antibodies; autoimmunity; hypokalemia; immunofluorescence; intercalated cells; kidney biopsy; stomach; type I RTA.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis, Renal Tubular / diagnosis*
  • Acidosis, Renal Tubular / immunology*
  • Antibodies / blood
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / immunology
  • Middle Aged
  • Stomach / immunology
  • Thyroid Gland / immunology


  • Antibodies