Studies on the pathophysiology of the low urine pH in patients with uric acid stones

Kidney Int. 2002 Mar;61(3):988-94. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1755.2002.00197.x.


Background: A very low urine pH is the major risk factor for uric acid stone formation.

Methods: A subgroup of patients with a history of uric acid stones and a persistently low urine pH (<5.5 for at least 12 h/day) were selected for detailed study. Based on their relative ammonium (NH(+)(4)) and sulfate (SO(2-)(4)) excretions, patients were divided into two groups.

Results: The first group (N = 2) excreted 173 and 139% more NH(+)(4) than SO(2-)(4). Their daily urinary unmeasured anion excretion was higher than their calculated net diet alkali input (38 and 61 vs. 24 and 49 mEq, respectively). In the second group (N = 12), NH(+)(4) excretion was 69 +/- 5% that of SO(2-)(4). In 2 of 12, decreased renal ammoniagenesis was suspected due to a plasma potassium of 5.3 mmol/L and/or a lower GFR (65 and 59 L/day); these patients had an extremely low citrate excretion (3 and 1 mEq/day). In contrast, citrate excretion was not low in the remaining 10 patients (10.4 +/- 1.3 mEq/day).

Conclusions: Patients in group 1 needed a higher NH(+)(4) excretion possibly because of a H+ load from excessive renal excretion of organic anions. We speculate that an alkaline proximal tubular cell pH could be the basis for the low NH(+)(4) and high citrate excretions in 10 of 12 patients in group 2. Dietary factors and/or a molecular lesion may contribute to their pathophysiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ammonia / urine
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kidney Calculi / metabolism*
  • Kidney Calculi / urine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Sulfates / urine
  • Uric Acid / metabolism*


  • Sulfates
  • Uric Acid
  • Ammonia