Selective Formation of Metastable Ferrihydrite in the Chiton Tooth

Lyle M. Gordon, Jessica K. Román, R. Michael Everly, Michael J. Cohen, Jonathan J. Wilker, Derk Joester*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Metastable precursors are thought to play a major role in the ability of organisms to create mineralized tissues. Of particular interest are the hard and abrasion-resistant teeth formed by chitons, a class of rock-grazing mollusks. The formation of chiton teeth relies on the precipitation of metastable ferrihydrite (Fh) in an organic scaffold as a precursor to magnetite. In vitro synthesis of Fh under physiological conditions has been challenging. Using a combination of X-ray absorption and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, we show that, prior to Fh formation in the chiton tooth, iron ions are complexed by the organic matrix. In vitro experiments demonstrate that such complexes facilitate the formation of Fh under physiological conditions. These results indicate that acidic molecules may be integral to controlling Fh formation in the chiton tooth. This biological approach to polymorph selection is not limited to specialized proteins and can be expropriated using simple chemistry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11506-11509
Number of pages4
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • biomineralization
  • ferrihydrite
  • iron oxides
  • metastable compounds
  • organic matrix

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)


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