Control of Aragonite or Calcite Polymorphism by Mollusk Shell Macromolecules

Science  05 Jan 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5245, pp. 67-69
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5245.67


Many mineralizing organisms selectively form either calcite or aragonite, two polymorphs of calcium carbonate with very similar crystalline structures. Understanding how these organisms achieve this control has represented a major challenge in the field of biomineralization. Macromolecules extracted from the aragonitic shell layers of some mollusks induced aragonite formation in vitro when preadsorbed on a substrate of β-chitin and silk fibroin. Macromolecules from calcitic shell layers induced mainly calcite formation under the same conditions. The results suggest that these macromolecules are responsible for the precipitation of either aragonite or calcite in vivo.

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