Congophilic Fibrillary Glomerulonephritis: A Case Series

Am J Kidney Dis. 2018 Sep;72(3):325-336. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2018.03.017. Epub 2018 Jun 14.


Rationale & objective: Congo Red positivity with birefringence under polarized light has traditionally permitted classification of organized glomerular deposits as from amyloid or nonamyloid diseases. The absence of congophilia has been used to differentiate fibrillary glomerulonephritis (GN) from amyloidosis. We describe a series of fibrillary GN cases in which the deposits are Congo Red-positive (congophilic fibrillary GN) and discuss the role of DNAJB9 in distinguishing congophilic fibrillary GN from amyloidosis.

Study design: Case series.

Setting & participants: Analysis of the clinicopathologic characteristics of 18 cases of congophilic fibrillary GN. Mass spectrometry was performed and compared with 24 cases of Congo Red-negative fibrillary GN, 145 cases of amyloidosis, and 12 apparently healthy individuals. DNAJB9 immunohistochemistry was obtained for a subset of cases.

Results: The proteomic signature of amyloid was not detected using mass spectrometry among cases of congophilic fibrillary GN. DNAJB9, a recently discovered proteomic marker for fibrillary GN, was detected using mass spectrometry in all cases of fibrillary GN regardless of congophilia and was absent in cases of amyloidosis and in healthy individuals. DNAJB9 immunohistochemistry confirmed the mass spectrometry findings. The congophilic fibrillary GN cases included 11 men and 7 women with a mean age at diagnosis of 65 years. Concomitant monoclonal gammopathy, hepatitis C virus infection, malignancy, or autoimmune disease was present in 35%, 22%, 17%, and 11% of patients, respectively. No patient had evidence of extrarenal amyloidosis. Patients presented with proteinuria (100%), nephrotic syndrome (47%), hematuria (78%), and chronic kidney disease (83%). After a mean follow-up of 23 months, 31% of patients progressed to end-stage kidney disease and the remaining 69% had persistently reduced kidney function.

Limitations: Retrospective nature. Blinded pathology evaluations were not performed.

Conclusions: The congophilic properties of organized fibrillary deposits should not be solely relied on in differentiating fibrillary GN from renal amyloidosis. Mass spectrometry and DNAJB9 immunohistochemistry can be useful in making this distinction.

Keywords: AL amyloidosis; Congo Red; DNAJB9; amyloid; biomarker; congophilic; fibrillary deposits; fibrillary glomerulonephritis; immunohistochemistry; kidney biopsy; laser microdissection; mass spectrometry; misdiagnosis; proteomics; renal pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amyloidosis / metabolism*
  • Amyloidosis / pathology*
  • Congo Red / analysis*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glomerulonephritis / metabolism*
  • Glomerulonephritis / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult


  • Congo Red