The effect of ions at the surface of calcium oxalate monohydrate crystals on cell-crystal interactions

John C. Lieske, Gerard Farell, Sergio Deganello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Magnesium is an abundant ion in biologic systems, including renal tubular fluid; however, the precise role of magnesium during the interaction of calcium oxalate crystals with cells has not been previously defined. In addition, the respective roles of calcium and hydrogen ions during the cell-crystal bonding interaction remain poorly defined. Here we report an atomic level three-dimensional study of a single crystal of calcium oxalate monohydrate (COM; whewellite) which was bathed in a solution of magnesium hexahydrate for 1 year. Magnesium was not incorporated into the structure of whewellite to any significant degree. Instead, COM accepted magnesium primarily as an adsorbate in a binding configuration which, as a surface phenomenon, is controlled by localized charge effects. The effect of magnesium and calcium on the efficiency of calcium oxalate crystal binding to renal cells was also investigated. When present in supraphysiologic concentrations (greater than 0.1 M), magnesium progressively inhibited adhesion of pre-formed COM crystals to cultured renal cells. Therefore, even though magnesium does not incorporate into the crystal structure of calcium oxalate, magnesium can exert important surface effects and change the interaction of pre-formed COM with molecules anchored on the cell surface. Similarly, binding was nearly blocked when the exogenous calcium concentration was ≥0.1 M (supraphysiologic range), although in lower concentrations (within the physiologic range) exogenous calcium promoted crystal adhesion. Finally, the ambient hydrogen ion concentration also influenced calcium oxalate crystal interactions with renal cells, with maximal binding occurring at a pH of 4. Therefore, hypercalciuria and/or an acidic urine could each promote renal stone formation via increased crystal adhesion to renal cells, a previously under-appreciated potential mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-123
Number of pages7
JournalUrological Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Atomic structure
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Nephrolithiasis
  • PH
  • Whewellite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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