Factors influencing the crystallization of monosodium urate: a systematic literature review

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2015 Oct 14;16:296. doi: 10.1186/s12891-015-0762-4.


Background: Gout is a chronic disease of monosodium urate (MSU) crystal deposition. Although hyperuricaemia is the central risk factor for development of gout, not all people with hyperuricaemia have subclinical MSU crystal deposition or indeed, symptomatic disease. The aim of this systematic literature review was to identify factors that contribute to MSU crystallization.

Methods: A search was conducted of the electronic databases PubMed, Science Direct and Scopus. Articles were included if they contained original data related to MSU crystallization. The methods and results were summarized and categorized into articles describing at least one of the three key steps in MSU crystallization (reduced urate solubility, nucleation and growth).

Results: A total of 2175 articles were initially identified in our systematic search with 35 of these articles included in the final analysis. Elevated urate concentration was identified as a central factor driving all three stages of MSU crystallization. Factors that were found to consistently reduce urate solubility were reduced temperatures, pH 7-9 and various ions including sodium ions. Connective tissue factors including bovine cartilage homogenates and healthy human synovial fluid and serum all enhanced urate solubility. MSU nucleation was found to be increased by a number of factors, including sodium ions, uric acid binding antibodies, and synovial fluid or serum from patients with gout. Other than elevated urate concentrations, no other specific factors were identified as promoters of MSU crystal growth.

Conclusions: Increased urate concentration is the key factor required at each stage of MSU crystallization. Different proteins and factors within connective tissues may promote MSU crystallization and may be important for determining the sites at which MSU crystallization occurs in the presence of elevated urate concentrations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / metabolism
  • Connective Tissue / metabolism
  • Crystallization
  • Gout / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Solubility
  • Uric Acid / metabolism*


  • Antibodies
  • Proteins
  • Uric Acid