Biomineralization in diatoms: the role of silacidins

Patrick Richthammer, Mandy Börmel, Eike Brunner, Karl-Heinz van Pée
Chembiochem: a European Journal of Chemical Biology 2011 June 14, 12 (9): 1362-6
Diatoms are eukaryotic, unicellular algae encased within siliceous cell walls (frustules), which are precisely reproduced generation by generation. The production of this nanostructured silica is under genetic control and the isolation of specific gene products (the proteins silaffins, silacidins) guiding the biomineralization processes, and which are necessary to produce the frustules, has already been described. Under silicon starvation, the amount of silacidins present in the cell walls of Thalassiosira pseudonana increases relative to other proteins. Natsilacidins, the native and highly phosphorylated silacidins are enormously effective in silica precipitation whereas silacidin A', the nonphosphorylated form, is not. This indicates an important role for natsilacidins in the survival of diatoms under silicic acid depleted conditions.

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