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M. Gilis, O. Grauby, Ph. Willenz, Ph. Dubois, V. Heresanu, and A. Baronnet (2013)

Biomineralization in living hypercalcified demosponges: Toward a universal mechanism?

Journal of Structural Biology, 183(3):441-454.

Massive skeletons of living hypercalcified sponges, representative organisms of basal Metazoa, are uncommon models to improve our knowledge on biomineralization mechanisms and their possible evolution through time. Eight living species belonging to various orders of Demospongiae were selected for a comparative mineralogical characterization of their aragonitic or calcitic massive basal skeleton. The latter was prepared for scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM and TEM), selected-area electron diffraction (SAED) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) analyses. SEM results indicated distinctive macro- and micro-structural organizations of the skeleton for each species, likely resulting from a genetically dictated variation in the control exerted on their formation. However, most skeletons investigated shared submicron to nano-scale morphological and crystallographical patterns: (1) single-crystal fibers and bundles were composed of 20 to 100nm large submicronic grains, the smallest structural units, (2) nano-scale likely organic material occurred both within and between these structural units, (3) {110} micro-twin planes were observed along aragonitic fibers, and (4) individual fibers or small bundles protruded from the external growing surface of skeletons. This comparative mineralogical study of phylogenetically distant species brings further evidence to recent biomineralization models already proposed for sponges, corals, mollusks, brachiopods and echinoderms and to the hypothesis of the universal and ancestral character of such mechanisms in Metazoa.
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