Background: Retention of microcrystals that form in tubular fluid could be a critical event in kidney stone formation. This study was performed to determine if urinary macromolecules from stone-forming (SF) individuals have reduced ability to inhibit crystal adhesion to renal cells.
Methods: A first morning whole urine (WU) sample was obtained from 24 SF subjects (17 males and 7 females) and 24 age-, race-, and sex-matched controls (C). An aliquot of urine was centrifuged and an ultrafiltrate (UF) free of macromolecules >10 kD and 10x concentrate (U(conc)) were prepared.
Results: Supplementing UF with increasing amounts of U(conc) to return the macromolecule concentration to 0.25x, 0.5x, or 1x of baseline progressively decreased crystal binding to cells. This effect was blunted in the male SF group compared to controls (P < 0.05, SF vs. C, for UF plus 0.25x macromolecules). No difference was apparent in the female groups. In order to identify responsible macromolecule(s), calcium oxalate monohydrate (COM) crystals were coated with U(conc) and adherent proteins then released and probed by Western blot. Coated COM crystals from male controls contained 3.5-fold more Tamm-Horsfall protein (THP) than SF subjects (P < 0.01). COM crystal coating with other proteins did not consistently differ between the groups. COM crystal coating by urinary prothrombin fragment 1 (UPTF1, P < 0.05) and crystal adhesion inhibitor (CAI) (P= 0.09) correlated with decreased crystal binding to cells, whereas coating with osteopontin (OPN) correlated with increased adhesion tendency (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: Urinary macromolecules >10 kD coat COM crystals and block their adhesion to renal cells. This capacity appears to be blunted in male but not female SF individuals. Multiple urinary proteins may play a role in renal cell-urinary crystal interactions, and THP appears to be one of the more important ones.