Biofabrication of biosilica-glass by living organisms

Nat Prod Rep. 2008 Jun;25(3):455-74. doi: 10.1039/b612515h. Epub 2008 Apr 8.


Biosilicification is an evolutionarily old and widespread type of biomineralization both in unicellular and multicellular organisms, including sponges, diatoms, radiolarians, choanoflagellates, and higher plants. In the last few years combined efforts in molecular biology, cell biology, and inorganic and analytical chemistry have allowed the first insight into the molecular mechanisms by which these organisms form an astonishing variety of siliceous structures that cannot be achieved by chemical methods. Here we report about the present stage of knowledge on structure, biochemical composition, and mechanisms of biosilica formation, focusing our attention particularly on sponges because of the enormous (nano)biotechnological potential of the enzymes involved in this process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cathepsins / biosynthesis
  • Cathepsins / chemistry
  • Cathepsins / genetics
  • Cathepsins / metabolism
  • Diatoms / metabolism
  • Glass*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Porifera / metabolism*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Silicon Dioxide*


  • silicatein alpha
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Cathepsins