Organic matrixlike macromolecules associated with the mineral phase of sea urchin skeletal plates and teeth



The skeletal plates and teeth of the echinoid Paracentrotus lividus contain a heterogeneous assemblage of macromolecules that are not part of the connective tissue, but are presumably intimately associated with the mineral phase. Upon dissolution of the Mg-calcite mineral phase, some of these molecules are insoluble. The insoluble fractions of the teeth and skeletal plates are quite different, the former being predominantly protein and the latter, primarily some unknown nonproteinaceous material. The soluble constituents are similar in both tissues. These hydrophilic macromolecules have been partially separated and characterized. In both hard parts, two distinct classes of macromolecules are present, as indicated by the amino acid compositions of their protein constituents. These two classes of macromolecules are also present in the shells of a foraminifer and in various mollusks, both of which are formed by the “organic matrix-mediated” biomineralization process. The locations of these macromolecules in the teeth and skeletal plates are not known, nor whether they form coherent structures. It is therefore premature to conclude that these macromolecules do function as an organic matrix, although the results presented are in agreement with such an interpretation.