Biomimetic Randall’s plaque as an in vitro model system for studying the role of acidic biopolymers in idiopathic stone formation

Archana Chidambaram, Douglas Rodriguez, Saeed Khan, Laurie Gower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Randall’s plaque (RP) deposits seem to be consistent among the most common type of kidney stone formers, idiopathic calcium oxalate stone formers. This group forms calcium oxalate renal stones without any systemic symptoms, which contributes to the difficulty of understanding and treating this painful and recurring disease. Thus, the development of an in vitro model system to study idiopathic nephrolithiasis, beginning with RP pathogenesis, can help in identifying how plaques and subsequently stones form. One main theory of RP formation is that calcium phosphate deposits initially form in the basement membrane of the thin loops of Henle, which then fuse and spread into the interstitial tissue, and ultimately make their way across the urothelium, where upon exposure to the urine, the mineralized tissue serves as a nidus for overgrowth with calcium oxalate into a stone. Our group has found that many of the unusual morphologies found in RP and stones, such as concentrically laminated spherulites and mineralized collagenous tissue, can be reproduced in vitro using a polymer-induced liquid precursor (PILP) process, in which acidic polypeptides induce a liquid phase amorphous precursor to the mineral, yielding non-equilibrium crystal morphologies. Given that there are many acidic proteins and polysaccharides present in the renal tissue and urine, we have put forth the hypothesis that the PILP system may be involved in urolithiasis. Therefore, our goal is to develop an in vitro model system of these two stages of composite stone formation to study the role that various acidic macromolecules may play. In our initial experiments presented here, the development of “biomimetic” RP was investigated, which will then serve as a nidus for calcium oxalate overgrowth studies. To mimic the tissue environment, MatriStem® (ACell, Inc.), a decellularized porcine urinary bladder matrix was used, because it has both an intact epithelial basement membrane surface and a tunica propria layer, thus providing the two types of matrix constituents found associated with mineral in the early stages of RP formation. We found that when using the PILP process to mineralize this tissue matrix, the two sides led to dramatically different mineral textures, and they bore a striking resemblance to native RP, which was not seen in the tissue mineralized via the classical crystal nucleation and growth process. The interstitium side predominantly consisted of collagen-associated mineral, while the luminal side had much less mineral, which appeared to be tiny spherules embedded within the basement membrane. Although these studies are only preliminary, they support our hypothesis that kidney stones may involve non-classical crystallization pathways induced by the large variety of macromolecular species in the urinary environment. We believe that mineralization of native tissue scaffolds is useful for developing a model system of stone formation, with the ultimate goal of developing strategies to avoid RP and its detrimental consequences in stone formation, or developing therapeutic treatments to prevent or cure the disease. Supported by NIDDK grant RO1DK092311.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-92
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Acidic proteins
  • Biomineralization mechanisms
  • Calcium phosphate
  • Nephrolithiasis
  • Osteopontin
  • PILP
  • Randall’s plaque

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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