The Molecular Basis of Nacre Formation

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Science  11 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5946, pp. 1351-1352
DOI: 10.1126/science.1177055

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The mechanisms that determine the structural features of organisms are complex, and we are still far from predicting the structure of an organism by looking at its genetic makeup. An additional level of complexity exists for organisms that form body parts composed of mineralized structures such as sea shells, bone, and teeth. These organisms must also carefully control the interfaces between the soft body parts and the growing mineral. On page 1388 in this issue, Suzuki et al. (1) identify two novel proteins, Pif80 and Pif97, as key players in controlling the crystal structure of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the pearl-forming oyster Pinctada fucata. The work provides the most complete data set to date for the role of any known protein involved in mollusk biomineralization. The methods used in this study may be widely applied in future studies in this field.