To assess the binding of individual amino acids to the principal calcium minerals found in human kidney stones, the adsorption of 20 amino acids on to calcium oxalate monohydrate, CaHPO4.2H2O, Ca3(PO4)2 and Ca5(PO4)3OH crystals was determined over the physiological urinary pH range (pH 5–8) in aqueous solutions. All amino acids adsorbed most strongly at pH 5, and this decreased in all cases as the pH was increased. The amino acids which adsorbed most strongly were aspartic acid, glutamic acid and γ-carboxyglutamic acid, with the last displaying the strongest affinity. All amino acids bound more avidly to calcium oxalate monohydrate than to any of the phosphate minerals. Adsorption on to CaHPO4.2H2O was generally higher than for Ca3(PO4)2 and Ca5(PO4)3OH, for which all amino acids, with the exception of γ-carboxyglutamic acid, had only a weak affinity. The binding affinity of these acids is thought to be due to their zwitterions being able to adopt conformations in which two carboxyl groups, and possibly the amino group, can interact with the mineral surface without further rotation. The strong binding affinity of di-and tri-carboxylic acids for calcium stone minerals indicates that proteins rich in these amino acids are more likely to play a functional role in stone pathogenesis than those possessing only a few such residues. These findings, as well as the preferential adsorption of the amino acids for calcium oxalate monohydrate rather than calcium phosphate minerals, have ramifications for research aimed at discovering the true role of proteins in stone formation and for potential application in the design of synthetic peptides for use in stone therapy.

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