Species-specific polyamines from diatoms control silica morphology

N Kröger, R Deutzmann, C Bergsdorf, M Sumper
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2000 December 19, 97 (26): 14133-8
Biomineralizing organisms use organic molecules to generate species-specific mineral patterns. Here, we describe the chemical structure of long-chain polyamines (up to 20 repeated units), which represent the main organic constituent of diatom biosilica. These substances are the longest polyamine chains found in nature and induce rapid silica precipitation from a silicic acid solution. Each diatom is equipped with a species-specific set of polyamines and silica-precipitating proteins, which are termed silaffins. Different morphologies of precipitating silica can be generated by polyamines of different chain lengths as well as by a synergistic action of long-chain polyamines and silaffins.

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