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Keywords:

  • biomimetic systems;
  • biosilica;
  • functional protein mimics;
  • metal oxides;
  • multifunctional materials;
  • silicatein

Owing to their physical and chemical properties, inorganic functional materials have tremendous impacts on key technologies such as energy generation and storage, information, medicine, and automotive engineering. Nature, on the other hand, provides evolution-optimized processes, which lead to multifunctional inorganic–bio-organic materials with complex structures. Their formation occurs under physiological conditions, and is goverened by a combination of highly regulated biological processes and intrinsic chemical properties. Nevertheless, insights into the molecular mechanisms of biomineralization open up promising perspectives for bioinspired and biomimetic design and the development of inorganic–bio-organic multifunctional hybrids. Therefore, biomimetic approaches may disclose new synthetic routes under ambient conditions by integrating the concept of gene-regulated biomineralization principles. The skeletal structures of marine sponges provide an interesting example of biosilicification via enzymatically controlled and gene-regulated silica metabolism. Spicule formation is initiated intracellularly by a fine-tuned genetic mechanism, which involves silica deposition in vesicles (silicassomes) under the control of the enzyme silicatein, which has both catalytic and templating functions. In this review, we place an emphasis on the fabrication of biologically inspired materials with silicatein as a biocatalyst.