Calcium hydroxyapatite (HAP) crystals formed in vitro in the presence of polymeric human gallbladder mucin (1.0 mg/mL) were smaller (0.75 ± 0.39 μm) than control crystals (7.86 ± 2.76 μm), but the mucin did not affect the kinetics of crystal formation or alter the amount of mineral phase present at equilibrium. In contrast, glycopeptide subunits produced by proteolysis of the native mucin had no effect on HAP crystal size. Both native mucin and glycopeptides bound to mature HAP crystals, but the glycopeptides were much more readily displaced by phosphate ions. Therefore, in experiments where HAP was being formed, the phosphate ions inhibited the interaction of glycopeptides with the nascent HAP. These results indicate that gallbladder mucin may modulate HAP formation in vivo, and that this ability may be altered during pathological states, such as neutrophil infiltration or bacterial colonization, that may cause the release of proteinases capable of digesting mucin.
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