The development of new modalities for kidney stone prevention rests upon understanding the progression of mineralization within the renal pyramid. The progression from small foci of mineralized volumes within the renal pyramid to larger interstitial plaques that ultimately lead into clinically detectable calcium-based stones on calcium phosphate stems will be presented through correlative microscopy approach. High resolution X-ray computed tomography (micro-XCT), electron microscopy, and energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) compositional analyses of interstitial plaques, stems, and attached stones were performed. Increase in mineral density progressed with mineralization severity, with the highest mineral densities detected within mature Randall's plaque and stems to which kidney stones were attached. EDX analyses revealed variable elemental composition within interstitial plaque, stems, and stones. Micro-XCT reconstructions of stones with stems enabled visualization of unoccluded tubules within stems, with average tubule diameters corresponding to thin limbs of Henle, blood vessels, and collecting ducts. Correlative microscopy confirmed that the progression of mineralization leading to calcium-based nephrolithiasis occurs through a continuum involving four anatomically and structurally distinct biomineralization regions: 1) proximal intratubular mineralization within the renal pyramid; 2) interstitial Randall's plaque near the tip of the papilla; 3) emerging plaque (stems); and, 4) the body of heterogeneous stones.
Statement of significanceNephrolithiasis is a common condition affecting nearly 1 in 11 Americans. The most common type of stone, calcium oxalate is known to form on a calcium phosphate deposit on the renal papilla known as Randall's plaque. Novel imaging techniques have identified distinct regions of biomineralization not just at the tip, but throughout the renal papilla. The classic understanding of Randall's plaque formation is reformulated using correlative imaging techniques. This study establishes a stepwise progression of anatomically-specific biomineralization events including, 1) proximal intratubular mineralization within the renal pyramid; 2) interstitial Randall's plaque near the tip of the papilla; 3) emerging plaque (stems); and, 4) the body of heterogeneous stones, and provides insights into the need for plausible site-specific therapeutic intervention.