Chapter 5. Biomineralization of Calcium Carbonate. The Interplay with Biosubstrates

  1. Astrid Sigel2,
  2. Helmut Sigel2 and
  3. Roland K. O. Sigel3
  1. Amir Berman

Published Online: 1 JUN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470986325.ch5

Biomineralization: From Nature to Application, Volume 4

Biomineralization: From Nature to Application, Volume 4

How to Cite

Berman, A. (2008) Biomineralization of Calcium Carbonate. The Interplay with Biosubstrates, in Biomineralization: From Nature to Application, Volume 4 (eds A. Sigel, H. Sigel and R. K. O. Sigel), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470986325.ch5

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Department of Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, University of Basel, Spitalstrasse 51, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland

  2. 3

    Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, University of Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland

Author Information

  1. Department of Biotechnology Engineering, Ben-Gurion University, Be'er-Sheva, Israel 84105

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 JUN 2010
  2. Published Print: 2 JAN 2008

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470035252

Online ISBN: 9780470986325



  • amorphous calcium carbonate;
  • aragonite;
  • calcite;
  • coccolith;
  • intracrystalline proteins;
  • nacre;
  • nucleation site;
  • vaterite


Organisms produce elaborate mineral parts that defy the common traits of “inorganic” crystallization in many ways. Calcium carbonate minerals are mainly used by invertebrates to build skeletal, protective, and storage mineralized constructs. Three crystalline polymorphs: calcite, aragonite, and vaterite, along with transient and stable amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) are used for specific functions. In this chapter recent insights into the biomineralization processes of calcium carbonate are presented. The control over crystal nucleation, growth, shape and internal symmetry of the crystalline elements are mediated by specialized biomacromolecules. Studies of organisms from diverse phyla have yielded several common features: Accumulation of material into the mineralization site is done by aggregation of amorphous nanometer sized spherules. Usage of transient amorphous material as a precursor phase is a general phenomenon. It allows molding the shape of the crystal into a desired form. Specific, glutamic acid-rich proteins interact with ACC and possibly prevent it from crystallization. Another set of highly acidic, aspartic acid rich-proteins interact specifically with the crystalline phases. Subsets of these acidic proteins constitute the crystal nucleation sites and the intracrystalline proteins and are specific for calcite versus aragonite formation. Specifically occluded, intracrystalline proteins modify the intrinsic texture of the biogenic crystals, increase their toughness and reduce the natural brittleness. Some aspects of biological mineral formation have been reproduced and studied in artificially deposited calcium carbonate in the presence of macromolecules extracted from biominerals or in synthetic analogous systems. The simple crystal habit of calcite facilitates the interpretation of the directional interactions it undergoes with synthetic compounds in vitro and provides systematic clues for the control mechanisms exerted by the organisms on the minerals they deposit.