Journal of structural biology, 148(1):123-30, 10, 2004. Paper Website abstract bibtex
The sea urchin embryo forms calcareous endoskeletal spicules composed of calcite and an occluded protein matrix. Though the latter is approximately 0.1% of of the mass, the composite has substantially altered material properties, e.g., conchoidal fracture planes and increased hardness. Experiments were conducted to examine the localization of matrix proteins occluded in the mineral by use of immunocytochemistry coupled with scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The isolated, unfixed spicules were etched under relatively gentle conditions and exposed to affinity purified antibodies made against two different matrix proteins, as well as an antibody to the entire constellation of matrix proteins. Immunogold tagged secondary antibody was used to observe antibody localization in the back scatter mode of SEM. All proteins examined were very widely distributed throughout the calcite, supporting a model of the structure in which a multiprotein assemblage is woven with fine texture around microcrystalline domains of calcite. Gentle etching revealed a laminar arrangement of calcite solubility, consistent with a stepwise deposition of matrix and mineral to increase girth of the spicule.