Mineralogical signatures of stone formation mechanisms

Laurie B Gower, Fairland F Amos, Saeed R Khan
Urological Research 2010, 38 (4): 281-92
The mechanisms involved in biomineralization are modulated through interactions with organic matrix. In the case of stone formation, the role of the organic macromolecules in the complex urinary environment is not clear, but the presence of mineralogical 'signatures' suggests that some aspects of stone formation may result from a non-classical crystallization process that is induced by acidic proteins. An amorphous precursor has been detected in many biologically controlled mineralization reactions, which is thought to be regulated by non-specific interactions between soluble acidic proteins and mineral ions. Using in vitro model systems, we find that a liquid-phase amorphous mineral precursor induced by acidic polypeptides can lead to crystal textures that resemble those found in Randall's plaque and kidney stones. This polymer-induced liquid-precursor process leads to agglomerates of coalesced mineral spherules, dense-packed spherulites with concentric laminations, mineral coatings and 'cements', and collagen-associated mineralization. Through the use of in vitro model systems, the mechanisms involved in the formation of these crystallographic features may be resolved, enhancing our understanding of the potential role(s) that proteins play in stone formation.

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