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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Coral acid rich protein selects vaterite polymorph in vitro.


Corals and other biomineralizing organisms use proteins and other molecules to form different crystalline polymorphs and biomineral structures. In corals, it's been suggested that proteins such as Coral Acid Rich Proteins (CARPs) play a major role in the polymorph selection of their calcium carbonate (CaCO3) aragonite exoskeleton. To date, four CARPs (1-4) have been characterized: each with a different amino acid composition and different temporal and spatial expression patterns during coral developmental stages. Interestingly, CARP3 is able to alter crystallization pathways in vitro, yet its function in this process remains enigmatic. To better understand the CARP3 function, we performed two independent in vitro CaCO3 polymorph selection experiments using purified recombinant CARP3 at different concentrations and at low or zero Mg2+ concentration. Our results show that, in the absence of Mg2+, CARP3 selects for the vaterite polymorph and inhibits calcite. However, in the presence of a low concentration of Mg2+ and CARP3 both Mg-calcite and vaterite are formed, with the relative amount of Mg-calcite increasing with CARP3 concentration. In all conditions, CARP3 did not select for the aragonite polymorph, which is the polymorph associated to CARP3 in vivo, even in the presence of Mg2+ (Mg:Ca molar ratio equal to 1). These results further emphasize the importance of Mg:Ca molar ratios similar to that in seawater (Mg:Ca equal to 5) and the activity of the biological system in a aragonite polymorph selection in coral skeleton formation.

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