Signals and organic matrix proteins secreted from the mantle are critical for the development of shells in molluscs. Nacrein, which is composed of a carbonic anhydrase domain and a Gly-X-Asn repeat domain, is one of the organic matrix proteins that accumulates in shells. In situ hybridization revealed that nacrein was expressed in the outer epithelial cells of the mantle of the pearl oyster Pinctada fucata. The recombinant nacrein protein inhibited the precipitation of calcium carbonate from a saturated solution containing CaCl2 and NaHCO3, indicating that it can act as a negative regulator for calcification in the shells of molluscs. Because deletion of the Gly-X-Asn repeat domain of nacrein had a significant effect on the ability of nacrein to inhibit the precipitation of calcium carbonate, it is conceivable that the repeat domain has a primary role in the inhibitory function of nacrein in shell formation. Together these studies suggest that nacrein functions as a negative regulator in calcification in the extrapallial space between the shell and the mantle by inhibiting the precipitation of CaCO3.
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