Extraosseous calcification. Evidence for abnormal pyrophosphate metabolism in uremia

A. C. Alfrey, C. C. Solomons, J. Ciricillo, N. L. Miller

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The inorganic constituents and crystalline features of extraosseous calcium phosphate deposits obtained from dialyzed uremic and hypercalcemic patients were studied. Visceral calcification (heart, lung and kidney) in hypercalcemic patients exhibited either an amorphous or apatitic X ray diffraction pattern. Uremic visceral calcification consistently gave an amorphous diffraction pattern. Although the calcium content of uremic and hypercalcemic visceral deposits was similar, other inorganic constituents were different. The mean pyrophosphate was 11±11.8 and magnesium 4.91±3.86 mg/g in the uremic group as compared to 0.92±0.24 and 1.36±1.26 mg/g in the hypercalcemic group (P<0.025). After incineration hypercalcemic visceral deposits having an amorphous diffraction pattern were found to generate pyrophosphate supporting the presence of brushite in these deposits. The small amount of pyrophosphate in apatitic deposits from both uremic and hypercalcemic patients actually decreased after incineration and the pyrophosphate content of uremic visceral deposits was unchanged by incineration. It is concluded that in hypercalcemic patients the initial visceral deposit is brushite which is subsequently transformed to apatite. Arterial and tumoral calcium phosphate deposits in uremic patients were also apatite. Uremic visceral calcium phosphate deposits are an unique mineral high in magnesium with approximately 30% of the phosphorus present as pyrophosphate. The high pyrophosphate content of these deposits could alter their crystalline structure and prevent the transformation to apatite. The infrared features, high magnesium content of the deposit, and resistance of pyrophosphate in the deposit to hydrolysis by pyrophosphatase suggests that the pyrophosphate may be deposited as the magnesium salt.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-699
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1976
Externally publishedYes


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