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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Growth and regrowth of adult sea urchin spines involve hydrated and anhydrous amorphous calcium carbonate precursors.


In various mineralizing marine organisms, calcite or aragonite crystals form through the initial deposition of amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) phases with different hydration levels. Using X-ray PhotoEmission Electron spectroMicroscopy (X-PEEM), ACCs with varied spectroscopic signatures were previously identified. In particular, ACC type I and II were recognized in embryonic sea urchin spicules. ACC type I was assigned to hydrated ACC based on spectral similarity with synthetic hydrated ACC. However, the identity of ACC type II has never been unequivocally determined experimentally. In the present study we show that synthetic anhydrous ACC and ACC type II identified here in sea urchin spines, have similar Ca L 2,3-edge spectra. Moreover, using X-PEEM chemical mapping, we revealed the presence of ACC-H2O and anhydrous ACC in growing stereom and septa regions of sea urchin spines, supporting their role as precursor phases in both structures. However, the distribution and the abundance of the two ACC phases differ substantially between the two growing structures, suggesting a variation in the crystal growth mechanism; in particular, ACC dehydration, in the two-step reaction ACC-H2O → ACC → calcite, presents different kinetics, which are proposed to be controlled biologically.

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