Silk fibroin hydrogels coupled with the n16N-β-chitin complex: An in vitro organic matrix for controlling calcium carbonate mineralization

Ellen C. Keene, John S. Evans, Lara A. Estroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Previous results have shown that the nacre specific peptide, n16N, from the Japanese pearl oyster Pinctada fucata has a binding affinity for β-chitin. As a result, the n16N-chitin assembly is able to selectivity nucleate aragonite. Here, we have added silk fibroin hydrogels to the in vitro assay to more fully represent the in vivo matrix. Crystallization, with a silk fibroin hydrogel and n16N on β-chitin, results in metastable vaterite and amorphous calcium carbonate, which form as flat deposits with hemispherical centers. Acidic peptide controls (p-Asp/p-Glu) were also tested in the silk-chitin assay and result in flat calcite that grows into the β-chitin substrate. Fluorescence imaging of that matrix, made with labeled n16N, shows that n16N binds to β-chitin in the presence of silk gel. These results demonstrate that the addition of a silk hydrogel to the n16N-β-chitin assembly changes the microenvironment for mineralization. This work contributes to our understanding of the roles of individual nacre matrix components (and their assemblies) in controlling crystal growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5169-5175
Number of pages7
JournalCrystal Growth and Design
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics

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