The Diatom Glasshouse

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Science  18 Oct 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5593, pp. 547
DOI: 10.1126/science.1078222

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Diatoms are unicellular microalgae with intricate walls made from silica. In his Perspective, Wetherbee explains how these patterned walls are constructed. He highlights the report by Kröger et al., who show that key molecules in the silicification process, called silaffins, are highly phosphorylated in their native state. The silaffins nucleate and precipitate silica; other molecules must be responsible for the fine patterning but remain as yet unidentified.