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Histopathology. 2008 Nov;53(5):503-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.2008.03000.x. Epub 2008 Mar 8.

Alkaptonuria--a review of surgical and autopsy pathology.

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Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.


Alkaptonuria is a rare, inherited defect of homogentisic acid 1,2-dioxygenase that leads to the widespread deposition of polymeric homogentisic acid, and clinical symptoms from degeneration of joints and the aortic valve. Pathological descriptions are few and mainly those of late-stage changes related to joint or valve failure. In this review, the macroscopic and histopathological changes in the tissues in alkaptonuria are illustrated by the detailed autopsy study of a 74-year-old female who died from disseminated ovarian carcinoma. The pathology is discussed in the context of the literature and in relation to potential pathogenic mechanisms of tissue damage. This review highlights the heterogeneity of some of the manifestations. In symptomatic patients, degenerative changes in synovial and intervertebral joints are usually well advanced, while early changes include diffuse cartilage pigmentation and chondrocyte necrosis. The initial stage of pigment deposition in the cardiovascular system may be influenced by intravascular pressure and flow disturbances, whereas more intense pigmentation affects fibrolipid components of atheromatous plaques. Pigmentation of the aortic and mitral valve cusps and valve rings is a result of intracellular and extracellular pigment deposition and is associated with calcification and clinically significant aortic stenosis.

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