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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e52372. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052372. Epub 2013 Jan 14.

Pearl microstructure and expression of shell matrix protein genes MSI31 and MSI60 in the pearl sac epithelium of Pinctada fucata by in situ hybridization.

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Mie University, Graduate School of Bioresources, Tsu, Mie, Japan.


Expression patterns of the shell matrix protein genes MSI31 and MSI60 in the pearl sac epithelium were examined by in situ hybridization 38 days after implantation, and related to pearl quality. A pearl sac that produced a nacreous pearl showed very weak expression of MSI31 and strong expression of MSI60. A pearl sac, which yielded a prismatic pearl, strongly expressed MSI31 and very weakly expressed MSI60. In a complex pearl, whose surface consisted of a mosaic of both nacreous and prismatic layers, the expression pattern of MSI31 and MSI60 similarly corresponded to the underlying surface structures of the pearl. A nacreous pearl whose pearl sac showed strong MSI31 expression had an entirely nacreous surface composed of a laminar structure with unusual tablet growth at the corresponding site. MSI31 and MSI60 are the major components of the shell matrix proteins of the nacreous and prismatic layers. Clearly, high expression of MSI31 does not always result in prismatic secretion. These observations cannot be explained solely on the basis of the expression patterns of MSI31 and MSI60. We propose that, in addition to the MSI genes that form the prismatic and nacreous layers, upstream from these genes there are regulatory master genes that determine whether a nacreous layer (aragonite) or a prismatic layer (calcite) is formed.

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