Kidney stones are crystal aggregates, most commonly containing calcium oxalate monohydrate (COM) crystals as the primary constituent. Notably, in vitro studies have suggested that anionic molecules or macromolecules with substantial anionic functionality (e.g., carboxylate) play an important role in crystal aggregation and crystal attachment to renal epithelial cells. Furthermore, kidney stones contain measurable amounts of carboxylate-rich proteins that may serve as adhesives and promote aggregation of COM crystals. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) measurements of adhesion forces between tip-immobilized molecules and the COM (100) surface in aqueous media, described herein, reveal the effect of functional groups on adhesion and support an important role for the carboxylate group in processes responsible for kidney stone formation, specifically macromolecule-mediated adhesion of COM crystals to cells and crystal aggregation. The presence of poly(aspartic acid) during force measurements results in a reduction in the adhesion force measured for carboxylate-modified tips, consistent with the blocking of binding sites on the COM (100) surface by the carboxylate-rich polymer. This competitive binding behavior mimics the known reduction in attachment of COM crystals to renal epithelial cells in the presence of carboxylate-rich urinary macromolecules. These results suggest a feasible methodology for identifying the most important crystal surface-macromolecule combinations related to stone formation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry