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Cells Tissues Organs. 2009;189(1-4):38-43. doi: 10.1159/000151374. Epub 2008 Aug 13.

Avian eggshell structure and osteopontin.

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Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University, Montreal, Que., Canada.


The avian eggshell primarily consists of calcium carbonate mineral (calcite) and matrix proteins. Here we review matrix-mineral relationships in the eggshell at the ultrastructural level using scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and describe the distribution of osteopontin (OPN) as determined by colloidal gold immunolabeling for OPN. A rich protein network integrated within the calcitic structure of the eggshell shows variable, region-specific organization that included layered fibrous planar sheets of matrix, thin filamentous threads, thin film-like surface coatings, vesicular structures and isolated proteins residing on cleaved {104} crystallographic faces of the eggshell calcite. Except for the vesicular structures, these matrix structures all immunolabeled strongly for OPN. Given the potent mineralization- inhibiting function of OPN, we discuss how this protein might regulate eggshell growth rate and inhibit calcification at specific compartmental boundaries to provide eggshell form.

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