Sea urchins have a set of five continuously growing teeth, each of which has a very complex structure. The mineral phase is calcite of varying Mg content, depending on the location within a tooth. The calcium carbonate is present in amorphous, plate-like and rod-like forms. It has been hypothesized that the mineral deposition is a matrix-mediated process, similar to that in vertebrate bone and tooth, wherein certain macromolecules within the organic matrix of the mineralized tissue play an important role in nucleating and controlling the growth habit of the mineral crystals. It has also been hypothesized that the mineral-related macromolecules involved in urchin teeth might bear a direct evolutionary relationship to those of the vertebrate tooth. These hypotheses are explored here by examining the pattern and nature of the mineral distribution, using microCT of intact teeth, and the nature of the mineral-related matrix proteins. The mineral-related proteins were extracted and fractionated by anion exchange chromatography. The relationship of certain fractions to vertebrate matrix proteins was established by immunoblots using antibodies to vertebrate tooth proteins. The antibodies were then used to localize the proteins within the teeth, by immunocytochemistry and histology with specific staining. The microCT data on mineral density has been correlated with the patterns of cellular migration and mineral deposition within the tooth as it grows. It appears that the mineralization within the different tooth compartments might take place under the influence of different matrix proteins. Further studies are in progress to more completely describe the vertebrate-invertebrate immunologically cross-reactive proteins of the urchin teeth.
- Matrix proteins
- Sea urchin teeth
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medical Laboratory Technology