Calcite fibre formation in modern brachiopod shells

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The fibrous calcite layer of modern brachiopod shells is a hybrid composite material and forms a substantial part of the hard tissue. We investigated how cells of the outer mantle epithelium (OME) secrete calcite material and generate the characteristic fibre morphology and composite microstructure of the shell. We employed AFM, FE-SEM, and TEM imaging of embedded/etched, chemically fixed/decalcified and high-pressure frozen/freeze substituted samples. Calcite fibres are secreted by outer mantle epithelium (OME) cells. Biometric analysis of TEM micrographs indicates that about 50% of these cells are attached via hemidesmosomes to an extracellular organic membrane present at the proximal, convex surface of the fibres. At these sites, mineral secretion is not active. Instead, ion transport from OME cells to developing fibres occurs at regions of closest contact between cells and fibres, however only at sites where the extracellular membrane at the proximal fibre surface is not developed yet. Fibre formation requires the cooperation of several adjacent OME cells. It is a spatially and temporally changing process comprising of detachment of OME cells from the extracellular organic membrane, mineral secretion at detachment sites, termination of secretion with formation of the extracellular organic membrane, and attachment of cells via hemidesmosomes to this membrane.

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DOI 10.1038/s41598-018-36959-z

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Roda Simonet, M. , Griesshaber, E. , Ziegler, A. , Rupp, U. , Yin, X. , Henkel, D. , Häussermann, V. , Laudien, J. , Brand, U. , Eisenhauer, A. , Checa, A. G. and Schmahl, W. (2019): Calcite fibre formation in modern brachiopod shells , Scientific Reports, 9 , p. 598 . doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-36959-z

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