Louis Patard, Jean-Yves Lallemand, Véronique Stoven
Human lithostathine was initially isolated from pancreatic stones in patients with alcoholic calcifying chronic pancreatitis. It is secreted into the pancreatic juice where it was believed to inhibit stone formation. The Nterminal undecapeptide was assumed to play an important role in the mechanism, by adsorption to the crystal surface. Later, the role of lithostathine in calcite formation and growth was questioned, together with the associated mechanism of action. In particular, although lithostathine adsorbs on calcite crystal, this property does not now seem to be specific. Moreover, the N-terminal undecapeptide is not likely to have, by itself, the function of the entire protein. The different aspects of this controversy are reviewed and discussed, particularly in the light of recent structural biology. Comparative biological data now available allow us to draw an interesting parallel between lithostathine and other related proteins. Finally, lithostathine might affect stone formation and may also have another function which could be investigated in the other proteins belonging to the same structural family.