Protein mapping of calcium carbonate biominerals by immunogold

Frédéric Marin, Boaz Pokroy, Gilles Luquet, Pierre Layrolle, K. de Groot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic

44 Citations (Scopus)


The construction of metazoan calcium carbonate skeletons is finely regulated by a proteinaceous extracellular matrix, which remains embedded within the exoskeleton. In spite of numerous biochemical studies, the precise localization of skeletal proteins has remained for a long time as an elusive goal. In this paper, we describe a technique for visualizing shell matrix proteins on the surface of calcium carbonate crystals or within the biominerals. The technique is as follows: freshly broken pieces of biominerals or NaOCl then EDTA-etched polished surfaces are incubated with an antibody elicited against one matrix protein, then with a secondary gold-coupled antibody. After silver enhancement, the samples are subsequently observed with scanning electron microscopy by using back-scattered electron mode. In the present case, the technique is applied to a particular example, the calcitic prisms that compose the outer shell layer of the mediterranean fan mussel Pinna nobilis. One major soluble protein, caspartin, which was identified recently, was partly de novo sequenced after enzymatic digestions. A polyclonal antibody raised against caspartin was used for its localization within and on the prisms. The immunogold localization indicated that caspartin surrounds the calcitic prisms, but is also dispersed within the biominerals. This example illustrates the deep impact of the technique on the definition of intracrystalline versus intercrystalline matrix proteins. Furthermore, it is an important tool for assigning a putative function to a matrix protein of interest.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)2368-2377
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • SEM
  • Surface treatmen
  • IR-78873
  • Immunogold
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Back-scattered electrons
  • Caspartin

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