In seeking to identify nucleating/antinucleating proteins involved in the pathogenesis of cholesterol gallstones, a major acidic protein was isolated from each of 13 samples of cholesterol gallstones. After the stones were extracted with methyl t-butyl ether to remove cholesterol, and methanol to remove bile salts and other lipids, they were demineralized with EDTA. The extracts were desalted with Sephadex-G25, and the proteins separated by PAGE. A protein was isolated, of molecular weight below 10 kD, which included firmly-bound diazo-positive yellow pigments and contained 24% acidic, but only 7% basic amino acid residues. The presence of N-acetyl glucosamine suggested that this was a glycoprotein. This protein at concentrations as low as 2 μg/ml, but neither human serum albumin nor its complex with bilirubin, inhibited calcium carbonate precipitation from a supersaturated solution in vitro. This protein could be precipitated from 0.15 M NaCl solution by the addition of 0.5 M calcium chloride. Considering that cholesterol gallstones contain calcium and pigment at their centers, and that small acidic proteins are important regulators in other biomineralization systems, this protein seems likely to play a role in the pathogenesis of cholesterol gallstones.
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