Adhesion of calcium oxalate monohydrate crystals to renal epithelial cells is inhibited by specific anions

John C. Lieske, Rebbecca Leonard, F. Gary Toback

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177 Scopus citations


Adhesion of urinary crystals to the apical surface of renal tubular cells could be a critical step in the formation of kidney stones. The interaction between renal epithelial cells (BSC-1 line) and the most common crystal in kidney stones, calcium oxalate monohydrate (COM), was studied in a tissue culture model system. COM crystals bound to the cell surface within seconds in a concentration-dependent manner to a far greater extent than did brushite, another calcium-containing crystal found in urine. Adhesion of COM crystals to cells was blocked by the polyanion, heparin. Other glycosaminoglycans including chondroitin sulfate A or B, heparan sulfate, and hyaluronic acid, but not chondroitin sulfate C, prevented binding of COM crystals. Two nonsulfated polyanions, polyglutamic acid and polyaspartic acid, also blocked adherence of COM crystals. Three molecules found in urine, nephrocalcin, uropontin, and citrate, each inhibited binding of COM crystals, whereas Tamm-Horsfall glycoprotein (THP) did not. Prior exposure of crystals but not cells to inhibitory molecules blocked adhesion, suggesting that these agents exert their effect at the crystal surface. Inhibition of crystal binding followed a linear Langmuir adsorption isotherm for each inhibitor identified, suggesting that these molecules bind to a single class of sites on the crystal that are important for adhesion to the cell surface. Inhibition of crystal adhesion by heparin was rapidly overcome by the polycation protamine, suggesting that the glycosaminoglycan regulates cell-crystal interactions in a potentially reversible manner. Thus rapid adhesion of COM crystals to the renal cell surface can be blocked by diverse anions found in urine (glycosaminoglycans, uropontin, nephrocalcin, citrate), but not all share this property (THP, albumin). Crystal retention and the subsequent formation of a renal calculus could be mediated by alterations in the structure, function, or quantity of urinary anions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F604-F612
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Fluid and Electrolyte Physiology
Issue number4 37-4
StatePublished - Apr 1995


  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Glycosaminoglycan
  • Heparan sulfate
  • Heparin
  • Nephrocalcin
  • Nephrolithiasis
  • Uropontin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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