Silica deposition in Demosponges: spiculogenesis in Crambe crambe

Cell Tissue Res. 2000 Aug;301(2):299-309. doi: 10.1007/s004410000234.


Transmission electron-microscopy images coupled with dispersive X-ray analysis of the species Crambe crambe have provided information on the process of silica deposition in Demosponges. Sclerocytes (megasclerocytes) lie close to spicules or surround them at different stages of growth by means of long thin enveloping pseudopodia. Axial filaments occur free in the mesohyl, in close contact with sclerocytes, and are triangular in cross section, with an internal silicified core. The unit-type membrane surrounding the growing spicule coalesces with the plasmalemma. The axial filament of a growing spicule and that of a mature spicule contain 50%-70% Si and 30%-40% Si relative to that contained in the spicule wall, respectively. The extracellular space between the sclerocyte and the growing spicule contains 50%-65%. Mitochondria, vesicles and dense inclusions of sclerocytes exhibit less than 10%. The cytoplasm close to the growing spicule and that far from the growing spicule contain up to 50% and less than 10%, respectively. No Si has been detected in other parts of the sponge. The megascleres are formed extracellularly. Once the axial filament is extruded to the mesohyl, silicification is accomplished in an extracellular space formed by the enveloping pseudopodia of the sclerocyte. Si deposition starts at regularly distributed sites along the axial filament; this may be related to the highly hydroxylated zones of the silicatein-alpha protein. Si is concentrated in the cytoplasm of the sclerocyte close to the plasmalemma that surrounds the growing spicules. Orthosilicic acid seems to be pumped, both from the mesohyl to the sclerocyte and from the sclerocyte to the extracellular pocket containing the growing spicule, via the plasmalemma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electron Probe Microanalysis
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning Transmission
  • Porifera / cytology
  • Porifera / metabolism*
  • Porifera / ultrastructure
  • Silicon Dioxide / metabolism*


  • Silicon Dioxide