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In this expert meeting the growth of biominerals in both abiotic and living systems will be explored.

Detail Summary
Date 3 July 2019
Time 00:00

In living systems CaCO3, Ca phosphates and silicate crystals are the fundamental mineralised structures. All around us, organisms seemingly effortlessly steer the precipitation of these minerals into a wide diversity of intricately shaped mineral architectures with a precise control over the shape and positioning.

Understanding biomineralisation is fundamental to understand the impact of global change, and specifically ocean acidification, on biomineralising organisms. It is expected that especially the formation of the fragile aragonite skeletons of planktonic gastropods (pteropods and heteropods) and scleractinian corals will be affected in the coming decades. It hypothesised that mineralisation processes also play a fundamental role in the origin of life. One hypothesis is for example that the formation of mineralised structures in deep-sea vents and the interaction between organic molecules in confined spaces in crystalline structures have led to new organic molecules.

An essential question—that already fascinated scientists like D’Arcy Thompson more than a century ago—is to what extent the biomineralising organisms exert direct control over the precipitation process, and to what extent the interplay between physical and chemical processes can already lead to the emergence of these complex mineral shapes. From living systems it is known that organelles, cells or thin spaces between tissue layers and skeletons play a fundamental role in biomineralisation. In particular, the organic matrix within this confined space acts as a scaffold in the precipitation process. However, the underlying mechanisms, including the genomic toolkit, that are controlling biomineralisation are not understood.

In this meeting, we want to gain insight into the growth of biominerals in both abiotic and living systems. Specifically we would like to address questions including: 1)  what is the role of confined spaces in biomineralisation, 2) how is the organic matrix controlling the precipitation process? 3) how will ocean acidifcation impact marine calcifiers?

We bring together researchers from different disciplines using a variety of methods to study biomineralisation, including microCT scanning, proteomics, liquid phase (scanning) transmission electron microscopy, crystallisation in controlled abiotic environments, reconstruction of gene networks, self-healing bio-inspired materials and modelling of biomineralisation. The focus will be on biomineralisation in marine organisms ranging from foraminifers, scleractinian corals to shelled pteropods.