|TIAB (Title and Abstract)|
Silicon: The key element in early stages of biocalcification.
Biocalcification is a widespread process of forming hard tissues like bone and teeth in vertebrates. It is also a topic connecting life sciences and earth sciences: calcified skeletons and shells deposited as sediments represent the earth's fossil record and are of paramount interest for biogeochemists trying to get an insight into the past of our planet. This study reports on the role of silicon in the early biocalcification steps, where silicon and calcium were detected on the surface of cyanobacteria (initial stage of lacustrine calcite precipitation) and in crustacean cuticles. By using innovative methodological approaches of correlative microscopy (AFM in combination with analytical TEM: EFTEM, EELS) the chemical form of silicon in biocalcifying matrices and organic-inorganic particles is determined. Previously, silicon was reported to be localized in active growth areas in the young bone of vertebrates. We have found evidence that biocalcification in evolutionarily distant organisms involves very similar initial phases with silicon as a key element at the organic-inorganic interface.