The role of matrix proteins in the control of nacreous layer deposition during pearl formation

Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Mar 7;279(1730):1000-7. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1661. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


To study the function of pearl oyster matrix proteins in nacreous layer biomineralization in vivo, we examined the deposition on pearl nuclei and the expression of matrix protein genes in the pearl sac during the early stage of pearl formation. We found that the process of pearl formation involves two consecutive stages: (i) irregular calcium carbonate (CaCO(3)) deposition on the bare nucleus and (ii) CaCO(3) deposition that becomes more and more regular until the mature nacreous layer has formed on the nucleus. The low-expression level of matrix proteins in the pearl sac during periods of irregular CaCO(3) deposition suggests that deposition may not be controlled by the organic matrix during this stage of the process. However, significant expression of matrix proteins in the pearl sac was detected by day 30-35 after implantation. On day 30, a thin layer of CaCO(3), which we believe was amorphous CaCO(3), covered large aragonites. By day 35, the nacreous layer had formed. The whole process is similar to that observed in shells, and the temporal expression of matrix protein genes indicated that their bioactivities were crucial for pearl development. Matrix proteins controlled the crystal phase, shape, size, nucleation and aggregation of CaCO(3) crystals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquaculture
  • Calcium Carbonate / chemistry
  • Calcium Carbonate / metabolism*
  • Carbonic Anhydrases / metabolism
  • Carbonic Anhydrases / physiology
  • Nacre / chemistry
  • Nacre / metabolism*
  • Pinctada / genetics
  • Pinctada / metabolism*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteins / physiology*


  • Nacre
  • Proteins
  • nacrein
  • Carbonic Anhydrases
  • Calcium Carbonate