Invertebrate biominerals are characterized by their extraordinary functionality and physical properties, such as strength, stiffness and toughness that by far exceed those of the pure mineral component of such composites. This is attributed to the organic matrix, secreted by specialized cells, which pervades and envelops the mineral crystals. Despite the obvious importance of the protein fraction of the organic matrix, only few in-depth proteomic studies have been performed due to the lack of comprehensive protein sequence databases. The recent public release of the gastropod Lottia gigantea genome sequence and the associated protein sequence database provides for the first time the opportunity to do a state-of-the-art proteomic in-depth analysis of the organic matrix of a mollusc shell.
Using three different sodium hypochlorite washing protocols before shell demineralization, a total of 569 proteins were identified in Lottia gigantea shell matrix. Of these, 311 were assembled in a consensus proteome comprising identifications contained in all proteomes irrespective of shell cleaning procedure. Some of these proteins were similar in amino acid sequence, amino acid composition, or domain structure to proteins identified previously in different bivalve or gastropod shells, such as BMSP, dermatopontin, nacrein, perlustrin, perlucin, or Pif. In addition there were dozens of previously uncharacterized proteins, many containing repeated short linear motifs or homorepeats. Such proteins may play a role in shell matrix construction or control of mineralization processes.
The organic matrix of Lottia gigantea shells is a complex mixture of proteins comprising possible homologs of some previously characterized mollusc shell proteins, but also many novel proteins with a possible function in biomineralization as framework building blocks or as regulatory components. We hope that this data set, the most comprehensive available at present, will provide a platform for the further exploration of biomineralization processes in molluscs.