In vivo, urinary crystals are associated with proteins located within the mineral bulk as well as upon their surfaces. Proteins incarcerated within the mineral phase of retained crystals could act as a defence against urolithiasis by rendering them more vulnerable to destruction by intracellular and interstitial proteases. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of intracrystalline and surface-bound osteopontin (OPN) on the degradation and dissolution of urinary calcium oxalate dihydrate (COD) crystals in cultured Madin Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells. [14C]-oxalate-labelled COD crystals with intracrystalline (IC), surface-bound (SB) and IC ? SB OPN, were generated from ultrafiltered (UF) urine containing 0, 1 and 5 mg/L human milk OPN and incubated with MDCKII cells, using UF urine as the binding medium. Crystal size and degradation were assessed using field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) and dissolution was quantified by the release of radioactivity into the culture medium. Crystal size decreased directly with OPN concentration. FESEM examination indicated that crystals covered with SB OPN were more resistant to cellular degradation than those containing IC OPN, whose degree of disruption appeared to be related to OPN concentration. Whether bound to the crystal surface or incarcerated within the mineral interior, OPN inhibited crystal dissolution in direct proportion to its concentration. Under physiological conditions OPN may routinely protect against stone formation by inhibiting the growth of COD crystals, which would encourage their excretion in urine and thereby perhaps partly explain why, compared with calcium oxalate monohydrate crystals, COD crystals are more prevalent in urine, but less common in kidney stones.