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Mar Biotechnol (NY). 2003 Jan-Feb;5(1):37-44.

Presence of protein complex is prerequisite for aragonite crystallization in the nacreous layer.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Kinki University, Wakayama 649-6493, Japan.


We have isolated a protein complex from the nacreous layer of pearl beads and oyster shells. This complex was mainly composed of pearlin and pearl keratin. Addition of a minute amount of the complex to a calcium-carbonate-saturated solution containing Mg2+ induced aragonite crystallization. The complex was dissociated to individual components in the presence of EDTA and urea. Conversely, the complex was reconstituted from a mixture of components upon incubation with Ca2+ and urea. The mixture of the components was unable to induce aragonite crystallization, but the reconstituted complex recovered this capacity. Thus it is concluded that the complex is the indivisible functional unit required for aragonite crystallization.

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