Clinicopathologic Characteristics of Crystalglobulin-Induced Nephropathy: A Case Series

Am J Kidney Dis. 2024 Jun 20:S0272-6386(24)00837-0. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2024.04.019. Online ahead of print.


Rationale & objective: Crystalglobulinemia is a rare syndrome characterized by intravascular crystallization of monoclonal immunoglobulins (MIgs). Data on kidney involvement are limited to case reports. This series characterizes the clinicopathologic spectrum of crystalglobulin-induced nephropathy (CIN).

Study design: Case series.

Setting & participants: Nineteen CIN cases were identified from the nephropathology archives of Mayo Clinic and Columbia University. CIN was defined by intravascular (extracellular) MIg crystals visible by light (LM) and electron microscopy (EM).

Findings: Among the cases, 68% were male and 65% were Caucasian (median age 56 years). Most patients presented with severe AKI (median creatinine 3.5 mg/dL), hematuria, and mild proteinuria (median 1.1 g). Common extrarenal manifestations were constitutional (67%), cutaneous (56%), and rheumatologic (50%). Fifty percent of cases had hypocomplementemia. The hematologic disorders were monoclonal gammopathy of renal significance (MGRS) (72%), lymphoma (17%), or myeloma (11%), with 65% of these disorders discovered concomitantly with CIN. All patients had MIg identified on SPEP/SIF (IgGκ in 65%). The sFLC ratio was outside the renal range in 40%, and bone marrow biopsy detected the responsible clone in 67%. On LM, crystals involved glomeruli (100%) and vessels (47%), often with an inflammatory reaction (89%) and fibrin (58%). All cases exhibited crystal substructures (mostly paracrystalline) by EM. Immunofluorescence (IF) on paraffin embedded tissue was more sensitive than frozen tissue (92% versus 47%) for demonstrating the crystal composition (IgGκ in 63%). Follow up (median 20 months) was available in 16 patients. Eighty-one percent received steroids, 44% plasmapheresis, 38% hemodialysis, and 69% chemotherapy. Ninety-percent of patients who received clone-directed therapy achieved kidney recovery vs. 20% of those who did not (p=0.017).

Limitations: Retrospective design, small sample size.

Conclusions: CIN is a rare cause of nephropathy associated with lymphoplasmacytic disorders (mostly MGRS) and typically presents with severe AKI and extrarenal manifestations. Diagnosis often requires IF performed on paraffin embedded kidney tissue. Prompt initiation of clone-directed therapy, coupled with corticosteroids and plasmapheresis, may lead to recovery of kidney function.

Keywords: MGRS; crystalglobulin-induced nephropathy; crystalglobulinemia; crystalline nephropathy; kidney biopsy; monoclonal gammopathy; multiple myeloma.