PerspectiveMaterials Science

Shaping Crystals with Biomolecules

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Science  19 Nov 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5700, pp. 1301-1302
DOI: 10.1126/science.1100889

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The complex shapes of biominerals cannot be explained with simple mechanistic models of crystal growth. In their Perspective, De Yoreo and Dove, argue that the popular "stereochemical recognition" model, which postulates that some shapes are stabilized through the binding of peptides and proteins to otherwise unstable faces, is not the full answer, either. According to recent studies, specific interactions between growth modifiers such as proteins and the edges of individual steps on existing crystal faces change the elementary step change to generate a similarly modified bulk crystal shape. The emergence of new faces is a macroscopic manifestation of the kinetics caused by molecular-scale interactions at the step edges.