A Precision Medicine Approach Uncovers a Unique Signature of Neutrophils in Patients With Brushite Kidney Stones

Mohammad Shahidul Makki, Seth Winfree, James E. Lingeman, Frank A. Witzmann, Elaine M. Worcester, Amy E. Krambeck, Fredric L. Coe, Andrew P. Evan, Sharon Bledsoe, Kristin J. Bergsland, Suraj Khochare, Daria Barwinska, James C. Williams, Tarek M. El-Achkar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction: We have previously found that papillary histopathology differs greatly between calcium oxalate and brushite stone formers (SF); the latter have much more papillary mineral deposition, tubular cell injury, and tissue fibrosis. Methods: In this study, we applied unbiased orthogonal omics approaches on biopsied renal papillae and extracted stones from patients with brushite or calcium oxalate (CaOx) stones. Our goal was to discover stone type-specific molecular signatures to advance our understanding of the underlying pathogenesis. Results: Brushite SF did not differ from CaOx SF with respect to metabolic risk factors for stones but did exhibit increased tubule plugging in their papillae. Brushite SF had upregulation of inflammatory pathways in papillary tissue and increased neutrophil markers in stone matrix compared with those with CaOx stones. Large-scale 3-dimensional tissue cytometry on renal papillary biopsies showed an increase in the number and density of neutrophils in the papillae of patients with brushite versus CaOx, thereby linking the observed inflammatory signatures to the neutrophils in the tissue. To explain how neutrophil proteins appear in the stone matrix, we measured neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) formation—NETosis—and found it significantly increased in the papillae of patients with brushite stones compared with CaOx stones. Conclusion: We show that increased neutrophil infiltration and NETosis is an unrecognized factor that differentiates brushite and CaOx SF and may explain the markedly increased scarring and inflammation seen in the papillae of patients with brushite stones. Given the increasing prevalence of brushite stones, the role of neutrophil activation in brushite stone formation requires further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-677
Number of pages15
JournalKidney International Reports
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020


  • kidney stones
  • nephrolithiasis
  • neutrophil extracellular trap

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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