Asprich: A novel aspartic acid-rich protein family from the prismatic shell matrix of the bivalve Atrina rigida

Bat Ami Gotliv, Naama Kessler, Jan L. Sumerel, Daniel E. Morse, Noreen Tuross, Lia Addadi, Steve Weiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

220 Scopus citations


Almost all mineralized tissues contain proteins that are unusually acidic. As they are also often intimately associated with the mineral phase, they are thought to fulfill important functions in controlling mineral formation. Relatively little is known about these important proteins, because their acidic nature causes technical difficulties during purification and characterization procedures. Much effort has been made to overcome these problems, particularly in the study of mollusk-shell formation. To date about 76 proteins from mollusk-shell organic matrices have been sequenced, but only two are unusually rich in aspartic and glutamic acids. Here we screened a cDNA library made from the mRNA of the shell-forming cells of a bivalve, Atrina rigida, using probes for short Asp-containing repeat sequences, and identified ten different proteins. Using more specific probes designed from one subgroup of conserved sequences, we obtained the full sequences of a family of seven aspartic acid-rich proteins, which we named "Asprich"; a subfamily of the unusually acidic shell-matrix proteins. Polyclonal antibodies raised against a synthetic peptide of the conserved acidic1 domain of these proteins reacted specifically with the matrix components of the calcitic prismatic layer, but not with those of the aragonitic nacreous layer. Thus the Asprich proteins are constituents of the prismatic layer shell matrix. We can identify different domains within these sequences, including a signal peptide characteristic of proteins destined for extracellular secretion, a conserved domain rich in aspanic acid that contains a sequence very similar to the calcium-binding domain of Calsequestrin, and another domain rich in aspanic acid, that varies between the seven sequences. We also identified a domain with DEAD repeats that may have Mg-binding capabilities. Although we do not know, as yet, the function of these proteins, their generally conserved sequences do indicate that they might well fulfill basic functions in shell formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-314
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Aspartic acid
  • Biomineralization
  • Calcite
  • Mollusk shell
  • Organic matrix
  • Proteins


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