Organic matrix-related mineralization of sea urchin spicules, spines, test and teeth

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011 Jun 1;16:2540-60. doi: 10.2741/3871.


The camarodont echinoderms have five distinct mineralized skeletal elements: embryonic spicules, mature test, spines, lantern stereom and teeth. The spicules are transient structural elements whereas the spines, and test plates are permanent. The teeth grow continuously. The mineral is a high magnesium calcite, but the magnesium content is different in each type of skeletal element, varying from 5 to 40 mole% Mg. The organic matrix creates the spaces and environments for crystal initiation and growth. The detailed mechanisms of crystal regulation are not known, but acidic and phosphorylated matrix proteins may be of special importance. Biochemical studies, sequencing of the complete genome, and high-throughput proteomic analysis have not yet provided insight into the mechanisms of crystallization, calcite composition, and orientation applicable to all skeletal elements. The embryonic spicules are not representative of the mature skeletal elements. The next phase of research will have to focus on the specific localization of the proteins and individual biochemistries of each system with regard to mineral content and placement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Calcium Carbonate / metabolism
  • Lytechinus / anatomy & histology
  • Lytechinus / genetics
  • Lytechinus / growth & development
  • Lytechinus / metabolism
  • Minerals / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Sea Urchins / anatomy & histology*
  • Sea Urchins / genetics
  • Sea Urchins / growth & development
  • Sea Urchins / metabolism*
  • Tooth / metabolism


  • Minerals
  • Proteins
  • Calcium Carbonate