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Biophys J. 2006 Oct 1;91(7):2601-8. Epub 2006 Jul 21.

Perlwapin, an abalone nacre protein with three four-disulfide core (whey acidic protein) domains, inhibits the growth of calcium carbonate crystals.

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Institut für Biophysik im FB 01 der Universität Bremen, Postfach 330440, 28334 Bremen, Germany.


We have isolated a new protein from the nacreous layer of the shell of the sea snail Haliotis laevigata (abalone). Amino acid sequence analysis showed the protein to consist of 134 amino acids and to contain three sequence repeats of approximately 40 amino acids which were very similar to the well-known whey acidic protein domains of other proteins. The new protein was therefore named perlwapin. In addition to the major sequence, we identified several minor variants. Atomic force microscopy was used to explore the interaction of perlwapin with calcite crystals. Monomolecular layers of calcite crystals dissolve very slowly in deionized water and recrystallize in supersaturated calcium carbonate solution. When perlwapin was dissolved in the supersaturated calcium carbonate solution, growth of the crystal was inhibited immediately. Perlwapin molecules bound tightly to distinct step edges, preventing the crystal layers from growing. Using lower concentrations of perlwapin in a saturated calcium carbonate solution, we could distinguish native, active perlwapin molecules from denaturated ones. These observations showed that perlwapin can act as a growth inhibitor for calcium carbonate crystals in saturated calcium carbonate solution. The function of perlwapin in nacre growth may be to inhibit the growth of certain crystallographic planes in the mineral phase of the polymer/mineral composite nacre.

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