Role of Phosphate in Biomineralization

Calcif Tissue Int. 2021 Jan;108(1):32-40. doi: 10.1007/s00223-020-00729-9. Epub 2020 Jul 25.


Inorganic phosphate is a vital constituent of cells and cell membranes, body fluids, and hard tissues. It is a major intracellular divalent anion, participates in many genetic, energy and intermediary metabolic pathways, and is important for bone health. Although we usually think of phosphate mostly in terms of its level in the serum, it is needed for many biological and structural functions of the body. Availability of adequate calcium and inorganic phosphate in the right proportions at the right place is essential for proper acquisition, biomineralization, and maintenance of mass and strength of the skeleton. The three specialized mineralized tissues, bones, teeth, and ossicles, differ from all other tissues in the human body because of their unique ability to mineralize, and the degree and process of mineralization in these tissues also differ to suit the specific functions: locomotion, chewing, and hearing, respectively. Biomineralization is a dynamic, complex, and lifelong process by which precipitations of inorganic calcium and inorganic phosphate divalent ions form biological hard tissues. Understanding the biomineralization process is important for the management of diseases caused by both defective and abnormal mineralization. Hypophosphatemia results in mineralization defects and osteomalacia, and hyperphosphatemia is implicated in abnormal excess calcification and/or ossification, but the exact mechanisms underlying these processes are not fully understood. In this review, we summarize available evidence on the role of phosphate in biomineralization. Other manuscripts in this issue of the journal deal with other relevant aspects of phosphate homeostasis, phosphate signaling and sensing, and disorders resulting from hypo- and hyperphosphatemic states.

Keywords: Biomineralization; Calciphylaxis; Enthesopathy; Heterotopic ossification; Hyperphosphatemia; Hypophosphatemia; Soft tissue calcification; Vascular calcification.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomineralization*
  • Bone and Bones / physiology*
  • Calcification, Physiologic
  • Humans
  • Hyperphosphatemia
  • Hypophosphatemia
  • Phosphates / physiology*


  • Phosphates