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Kidney Int. 1998 Apr;53(4):952-7.

Control of calcium oxalate crystal structure and cell adherence by urinary macromolecules.

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1
Nephrology Division, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA.

Abstract

Crystal polymorphism is exhibited by calcium oxalates in nephrolithiasis, and we have proposed that a shift in the preferred crystalline form of calcium oxalate (CaOx) from monohydrate (COM) to dihydrate (COD) induced by urinary macromolecules reduces crystal attachment to epithelial cell surfaces, thus potentially inhibiting a critical step in the genesis of kidney stones. We have tested the validity of this hypothesis by studying both the binding of monohydrate and dihydrate crystals to renal tubule cells and the effect of macromolecular urinary solutes on crystal structure. Renal tubule cells grown in culture bound 50% more CaOx monohydrate than dihydrate crystals of comparable size. The effects of macromolecules on the spontaneous nucleation of CaOx were examined in HEPES-buffered saline solutions containing Ca2+ and C2O4(2-) at physiologic concentrations and supersaturation. Many naturally occurring macromolecules known to be inhibitors of crystallization, specifically osteopontin, nephrocalcin and urinary prothrombin fragment 1, were found to favor the formation of calcium oxalate dihydrate in this in vitro system, while other polymers did not affect CaOx crystal structure. Thus, the natural defense against nephrolithiasis may include impeding crystal attachment by an effect of macromolecular inhibitors on the preferred CaOx crystal structure that forms in urine.

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