Motivation: The formation of aragonite mineral in the mollusk shell or pearl nacre requires the participation of a diverse set of proteins that form the mineralized extracellular matrix. Although self-assembly processes have been identified for several nacre proteins, these proteins do not contain known globular protein-protein binding domains. Thus, we hypothesize that other sequence features are responsible for nacre matrix protein-protein assembly processes and ultimately aragonite biosynthesis.
Results: Of 39 mollusk aragonite-associated protein sequences, 100% contain at least one region of intrinsic disorder or unfolding, with the highest percentages found in framework and pearl-associated proteins relative to the intracrystalline proteins. In some instances, these intrinsically disordered regions were identified as bind/fold sequences, and a limited number correlate with known biomineral-relevant sequences. Interestingly, 95% of the aragonite-associated protein sequences were found to contain at least one occurrence of amyloid-like or cross-β strand aggregation-prone supersecondary motifs, and this correlates with known aggregation and aragonite formation functions in three experimentally tested protein sequences. Collectively, our findings indicate that aragonite-associated proteins have evolved signature sequence traits of intrinsic disorder and aggregation-prone regions that are important for their role(s) in matrix assembly and mineralization.