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The bivalve hinge ligament holds the two shells together. The ligament functions as a spring to open the shells after they were closed by the adductor muscle. The ligament is a mineralized tissue that bears no resemblance to any other known tissue. About half the ligament is composed of a protein-rich matrix, and half of long and extremely thin segmented aragonite crystals. Here we study the hinge ligament of the pearl oyster Pinctada fucata. FIB SEM shows that the 3D organization is remarkably ordered. The full sequence of the major protein component contains a continuous segment of 30 repeats of MMMLPD. There is no known homologous protein. Knockdown of this protein prevents crystal formation, demonstrating that the integrity of the matrix is necessary for crystals to form. X-ray diffraction shows that the aragonite crystals are more aligned in the compressed ligament, indicating that the crystals may be actively contributing to the elastic properties. The fusion interphase that joins the ligament to the shell nacre is composed of a prismatic mineralized tissue with a thin organic-rich layer at its center. Nanoindentation of the dry interphase shows that the elastic modulus of the nacre adjacent to the interphase gradually decreases until it approximates that of the interphase. The interphase modulus slightly increases until it matches the ligament. All these observations demonstrate that the ligament shell complex is a remarkable biological tissue that has evolved unique properties that enable bivalves to open their shell effectively innumerable times during the lifetime of the animal.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Acta biomaterialia
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