The complementary role of histology and proteomics for diagnosis and typing of systemic amyloidosis

J Pathol Clin Res. 2019 Jul;5(3):145-153. doi: 10.1002/cjp2.126. Epub 2019 Apr 2.


The tissue diagnosis of amyloidosis and confirmation of fibril protein type, which are crucial for clinical management, have traditionally relied on Congo red (CR) staining followed by immunohistochemistry (IHC) using fibril protein specific antibodies. However, amyloid IHC is qualitative, non-standardised, requires operator expertise, and not infrequently fails to produce definitive results. More recently, laser dissection mass spectrometry (LDMS) has been developed as an alternative method to characterise amyloid in tissue sections. We sought to compare these techniques in a real world setting. During 2017, we performed LDMS on 640 formalin-fixed biopsies containing amyloid (CR+ve) comprising all 320 cases that could not be typed by IHC (IHC-ve) and 320 randomly selected CR+ve samples that had been typed (IHC+ve). In addition, we studied 60 biopsies from patients in whom there was a strong suspicion of amyloidosis, but in whom histology was non-diagnostic (CR-ve). Comprehensive clinical assessments were conducted in 532 (76%) of cases. Among the 640 CR+ve samples, 602 (94%) contained ≥2 of 3 amyloid signature proteins (ASPs) on LDMS (ASP+ve) supporting the presence of amyloid. A total of 49 of the 60 CR-ve samples were ASP-ve; 7 of 11 that were ASP+ve were glomerular. The amyloid fibril protein was identified by LDMS in 255 of 320 (80%) of the IHC-ve samples and in a total of 545 of 640 (85%) cases overall. The LDMS and IHC techniques yielded discordant results in only 7 of 320 (2%) cases. CR histology and LDMS are corroborative for diagnosis of amyloid, but LDMS is superior to IHC for confirming amyloid type.

Keywords: amyloid; immunohistochemistry; mass spectrometry; proteomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amyloidosis / classification
  • Amyloidosis / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Laser Capture Microdissection / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Staining and Labeling / methods
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*