Idiopathic calcium nephrolithiasis: A review of pathogenic mechanisms in the light of genetic studies

Teresa Arcidiacono, Alessandra Mingione, Lorenza Macrina, Francesca Pivari, Laura Soldati, Giuseppe Vezzoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Calcium nephrolithiasis is a multifactorial disease with a polygenic milieu. Association studies identified genetic polymorphisms potentially implicated in the pathogenesis of calcium nephrolithiasis. The present article reviews the mechanisms of calcium stone formation and the potential contribution of gene polymorphisms to lithogenic mechanisms. Summary: Endoscopy observations suggested that precipitation of calcium-oxalate on the Randall's plaque at the papilla surface may cause idiopathic calcium-oxalate stones. The Randall's plaque is a hydroxyapatite deposit in the interstitium of the kidney medulla, which resembles a soft tissue calcification. Conversely, calcium-phosphate stones may develop from crystalline deposits located at the tip of the Bellini duct. Polymorphisms of eleven genes have been associated with stones in genome-wide association studies and replicated candidate-gene association studies: VDR, SLC34A1, SLC34A4, CLDN14, and CaSR genes coding for proteins regulating tubular phosphate and calcium reabsorption; CaSR, MGP, OPN, PLAU, and UMOD genes coding for proteins preventing calcium salt precipitation; AQP1 gene coding for a water channel in the proximal tubule. The renal activity of the last gene, DGKH, is unknown. Polymorphisms in these genes may predispose to calcium-oxalate and -phosphate stones by increasing the risk of calcium-phosphate precipitation in the tubular fluid. Key Messages: Genetic findings suggest that tubular fluid supersaturation with respect to calcium and phosphate predisposes to calcium-oxalate stones by triggering cellular mechanisms that lead to the Randall's plaque formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-506
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Nephrology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Feb 24 2014


  • Calcium excretion
  • Calcium kidney stones
  • Genetic polymorphism
  • Phosphate excretion
  • Randall's plaque

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology
  • Medicine(all)


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