1. The particle size distributions of calcium oxalate crystals were measured at 37°C in fresh urine from recurrent, idiopathic stone-formers and their controls under the same conditions of dietary and fluid intake. The crystals excreted by the controls were small and belonged to a unimodal distribution, whereas those excreted by the stone-formers belonged to a distribution which contained a second peak of much larger particles. The proportion of large crystals in the urines of the stone-formers was significantly higher than in the urines of the controls.
2. The difference in the proportion of large particles passed by the two groups was accentuated by adding a small quantity of sodium oxalate to their diets. Whereas the controls continued to excrete only small crystals of calcium oxalate, the stone-formers passed most of their crystals as large particles.
3. Further investigations showed that the urines of the controls contained a potent inhibitor of the growth and aggregation of calcium oxalate crystals in vitro and that the inhibitor was deficient in the urines of the recurrent stone-formers.
4. It is suggested that the inhibitor in normal urine may allow calcium oxalate to be passed harmlessly in the form of small particles, whereas the lower inhibitory activity in the urines of the recurrent stone-formers is insufficient to prevent the growth of the primary crystals into the large aggregates seen in these urines. By blocking the formation of abnormally large crystals and aggregates the inhibitor may therefore play an important role in preventing crystalluria leading to stone formation.