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Open Access Case report

Chronic kidney disease, severe arterial and arteriolar sclerosis and kidney neoplasia: on the spectrum of kidney involvement in MELAS syndrome

Giorgina Barbara Piccoli16*, Laura Davico Bonino2, Paola Campisi3, Federica Neve Vigotti1, Martina Ferraresi1, Federica Fassio1, Isabelle Brocheriou4, Francesco Porpiglia6 and Gabriella Restagno5

Author Affiliations

1 SS Nephrology ASOU san Luigi, Orbassano, Torino, Italy

2 Anatomia Patologica ASOU Molinette, Torino, Italy

3 Department of Pathology, Laboratory of Pathology, Molinette Hospital, Turin, Italy

4 Assistance Publique- Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpital Tenon, Department of Pathology, Université Pierre et Marie Curie Univ Paris 06, Paris, France

5 Genetica Medica, ASOU OIRM sant'Anna, Torino, Italy

6 Department of Medical and Biological Sciences. SS Nephrology, ASOU san Luigi Gonzaga, Regione Gonzole, Orbassano, Torino, Italy

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BMC Nephrology 2012, 13:9  doi:10.1186/1471-2369-13-9

Published: 21 February 2012



MELAS syndrome (MIM ID#540000), an acronym for Mitochondrial Encephalopathy, Lactic Acidosis and Stroke-like episodes, is a genetically heterogeneous mitochondrial disorder with protean manifestations and occasional kidney involvement. Interest in the latter is rising due to the identification of cases with predominant kidney involvement and to the hypothesis of a link between mitochondrial DNA and kidney neoplasia.

Case presentation

We report the case of a 41-year-old male with full blown MELAS syndrome, with lactic acidosis and neurological impairment, affected by the "classic" 3243A > G mutation of mitochondrial DNA, with kidney cancer. After unilateral nephrectomy, he rapidly developed severe kidney functional impairment, with nephrotic proteinuria. Analysis of the kidney tissue at a distance from the two tumor lesions, sampled at the time of nephrectomy was performed in the context of normal blood pressure, recent onset of diabetes and before the appearance of proteinuria. The morphological examination revealed a widespread interstitial fibrosis with dense inflammatory infiltrate and tubular atrophy, mostly with thyroidization pattern. Vascular lesions were prominent: large vessels displayed marked intimal fibrosis and arterioles had hyaline deposits typical of hyaline arteriolosclerosis. These severe vascular lesions explained the different glomerular alterations including ischemic and obsolescent glomeruli, as is commonly observed in the so-called "benign" arteriolonephrosclerosis. Some rare glomeruli showed focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; as the patient subsequently developed nephrotic syndrome, these lesions suggest that silent ischemic changes may result in the development of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis secondary to nephron loss.


Nephron loss may trigger glomerular sclerosis, at least in some cases of MELAS-related nephropathy. Thus the incidence of kidney disease in the "survivors" of MELAS syndrome may increase as the support therapy of these patients improves.

MELAS syndrome; Chronic kidney disease; Renal vascular; Disease; Kidney cancer