Co-operative mineralization and protein self-assembly in amelogenesis: silica mineralization and assembly of recombinant amelogenins in vitro

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An amorphous silica mineralization technique was used to produce inorganic/protein composites to elucidate the structure and mechanism of formation of amelogenin assemblies, which may play an important role in regulating enamel structure during the initial stages of amelogenesis. Full-length recombinant amelogenins from mouse (rM179) and pig (rP172) were investigated along with key degradation products (rM166 and native P148) lacking the hydrophilic C terminus found in parent molecules. The resulting products were examined using transmission electron microscopy and/or small-angle X-ray scattering. Using protein concentrations of 0.1–3 mg ml−1, large monodisperse spheres of remarkably similar mean diameters were observed using rM179 (124 ± 4 nm) and rP172 (126 ± 7 nm). These spheres also exhibited ‘internal structure’, comprising nearly spherical monodisperse particles of ≈ 20 nm in diameter. In the presence of rM166, P148, and bovine serum albumin (control), large unstructured and randomly shaped particles (250–1000 nm) were observed. Without added protein, large dense spherical particles of silica (mean ≈ 500 nm) lacking internal structure were produced. These findings demonstrate that full-length amelogenins have the ability to form higher-order structures, whereas amelogenins that lack the hydrophilic C terminus do not. The results also suggest that full-length amelogenin can guide the formation of organized mineralized structures through co-operative interactions between assembling protein and forming mineral.

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