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Urol Res. 2007 Feb;35(1):1-14. Epub 2007 Feb 3.

The importance of a clean face: the effect of different washing procedures on the association of Tamm-Horsfall glycoprotein and other urinary proteins with calcium oxalate crystals.

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Department of Surgery, Flinders Medical Centre, Flinders University School of Medicine, Bedford Park, SA, 5042, Australia.


This study was undertaken to determine whether the use of different washing procedures could explain dissident findings in published studies examining the role of urinary macromolecules in urolithiasis. Calcium oxalate monohydrate (COM) crystals were deposited from or added to the same sieved urine, washed with copious or limited amounts of distilled water, or with methanol, and examined by field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM). Demineralized extracts were analysed by SDS-PAGE and Western blotting for Tamm-Horsfall glycoprotein (THG), human serum albumin (HSA), osteopontin (OPN) and prothrombin fragment 1 (PTF1). Synchrotron X-ray diffraction (SXRD) with Rietveld whole-pattern peak fitting and profile analysis was used to determine non-uniform crystal strain and crystallite size in crystals generated from inorganic solutions in the presence of increasing concentrations of THG and prothrombin (PT). HSA and PTF1 were present in all demineralized crystal extracts, confirming their inclusion within COM. OPN was present in all extracts except those derived from pure inorganic COM crystals, because of its occlusion within small numbers of calcium oxalate dihydrate (COD) crystals contaminating the COM population. THG was absent from the demineralized extracts of all crystals washed copiously with water, but present in those washed with methanol or limited amounts of water. FESEM showed extraneous organic material associated only with crystals whose extracts contained THG, confirming that the protein does not bind permanently to the COM crystal surface and is not occluded within the mineral bulk. This was confirmed by SXRD, which showed that non-uniform strain and crystallite size remained unaltered in crystals grown in the presence of increasing THG concentrations. However, non-uniform strain increased and crystallite size decreased with increasing PT concentrations, demonstrating unambiguously that PT is included in COM crystals. It was concluded that scrupulous care must be taken to ensure the complete removal of extraneous THG adventitiously associated with CaOx crystals in order to avoid inaccurate analysis of crystal matrix protein content and possible misinterpretation of experimental data.

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