Protein in Nacre Helps Build Oyster’s Shell


A novel matrix protein, designated as p10 because of its apparent molecular mass of 10 kDa, was isolated from the nacreous layer of pearl oyster (Pinctada fucata) by reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. In vitro crystallization experiments showed that p10 could accelerate the nucleation of calcium carbonate crystals and induce aragonite formation, suggesting that it might play a key role in nacre biomineralization. As nacre is known to contain osteogenic factors, two mineralogenic cell lines, MRC-5 fibroblasts and MC3T3-E1 preosteoblasts, were used to investigate the biological activity of p10.

The results showed that p10 could increase alkaline phosphatase activity, an early marker of osteoblast differentiation, while the viability of MRC-5 and MC3T3-E1 remained unchanged after treatment of p10. Taken together, the findings led to identification of a novel matrix protein from the nacre of P. fucata that plays a role in both the mineral phase and in the differentiation of the cells involved in biomineralization.

PMID: 16972140 Mar Biotechnol (NY). 2006 Nov-Dec;8(6):624-33. Epub 2006 Sep 18. Zhang C, Li S, Ma Z, Xie L, Zhang R.
A novel matrix protein p10 from the nacre of pearl oyster (Pinctada fucata) and its effects on both CaCO3 crystal formation and mineralogenic cells. Institute of Marine Biotechnology, Department of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084, People’s Republic of China.

This basic research study identifies a matrix protein from the inner lining, or nacre, of the common pearl oyster that plays a role in biomineralization, or building, of the oyster’s shell.

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