Researchers from University of California â€“ Riverside identified genetic mechanism that allows a mollusk to produce magnetite nanomaterials
A mollusk, also known as a gumboot chiton, removes algae off ocean rocks with the help of a specialized set of teeth that is made from magnetite, a magnetic mineral. In a leading study, a team of researchers led by Michiko Nemoto, an assistant professor of agriculture at Okayama University and David Kisailus, a professor of materials science and chemical engineering in University of California Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering, identified the genetic mechanism that allows the chiton to produce magnetite nanomaterials. The findings of the research were published in the journal Scientific Reports on January 29, 2019.
Chitons have an array of teeth that are attached to a ribbon-like structure. Each tooth is made of a mineralized cusp and base supporting the mineralized cusp. The cusp region contains magnetite deposits. Old teeth are replaced by new teeth and therefore, teeth in varying stages of formation are always present. The team analyzed the transcriptomeâ€”the set of all RNA molecules in the teeth instead of the specific genes in order to determine the substances expressed by the genes. The team found that 20 most abundant RNA transcripts in the developing teeth region contain ferritinâ€”a protein, which stores iron and releases it in a controlled fashion.
Moreover, RNA transcripts in the mineralized teeth region include proteins of mitochondria that may offer the energy required to transform the raw materials into magnetite. The team also explored the fully mineralized cusp and identified 22 proteins that included a new protein dubbed as â€˜radular teeth matrix protein1.â€™ According to the researchers, the new protein may interact with other substances present on the teeth to produce iron oxide. The team stated that the findings can offer nanoscale energy sources to power next generation electronics. The ability to control the growth of biological magnetite (as its magnetic fields have electrical applications) can help to create nanoscale energy materials.
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