Mineralization of the metre-long biosilica structures of glass sponges is templated on hydroxylated collagen

Hermann Ehrlich, Rainer Deutzmann, Eike Brunner, Enrico Cappellini, Hannah Koon, Caroline Solazzo, Yue Yang, David Ashford, Jane Thomas-Oates, Markus Lubeck, Carsten Baessmann, Tobias Langrock, Ralf Hoffmann, Gert Wörheide, Joachim Reitner, Paul Simon, Mikhail Tsurkan, Aleksander V Ereskovsky, Denis Kurek, Vasily V BazhenovSebastian Hunoldt, Michael Mertig, Denis V Vyalikh, Serguei L Molodtsov, Kurt Kummer, Hartmut Worch, Victor Smetacek, Matthew J Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The minerals involved in the formation of metazoan skeletons principally comprise glassy silica, calcium phosphate or carbonate. Because of their ancient heritage, glass sponges (Hexactinellida) may shed light on fundamental questions such as molecular evolution, the unique chemistry and formation of the first skeletal silica-based structures, and the origin of multicellular animals. We have studied anchoring spicules from the metre-long stalk of the glass rope sponge (Hyalonema sieboldi; Porifera, Class Hexactinellida), which are remarkable for their size, durability, flexibility and optical properties. Using slow-alkali etching of biosilica, we isolated the organic fraction, which was revealed to be dominated by a hydroxylated fibrillar collagen that contains an unusual [Gly-3Hyp-4Hyp] motif. We speculate that this motif is predisposed for silica precipitation, and provides a novel template for biosilicification in nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1084-1088
Number of pages5
JournalNature Chemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010



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