- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
Crucial events in biomineral formation—such as compartmentalization, supersaturation, precipitation, export of macromolecules, and cessation (Lowenstam and Weiner 1989)—require a “referee” who can control these events with precision and fidelity. This job falls to the cell, and in particular, a specialized cell, such as an osteoblast, odontoblast, mantle epithelium, or bacterium who has evolved or differentiated into a “molecular factory” that generates and controls the biomineralization process. Thus, to understand how biominerals form, we must first revisit basic concepts in biology that explain how cells function at the molecular level. This information will provide us with a basis for understanding subsequent chapters in this Review.
To provide a basic understanding for the non-specialist, this chapter will focus on four topics. General Cell Architecture will introduce the basic components of a cell and their function. Molecular Manufacturing will describe the major biomineralization-related macromolecules and how they are created and exported for use in biomineral formation. Molecular Performance will present structural concepts of cell-generated macromolecules which function in the biomineralization process. Finally, in Molecular Manipulation, we will briefly review contemporary techniques in molecular biology and chemical synthesis that may be mentioned in other chapters of this Review.
The reader should be aware that no single chapter or overview can cover all of the relevant information regarding cellular biology, molecular biology, and biochemistry, the three disciplines which outline not only the structure and function of cells and macromolecules, but also the biomineralization process itself. In fact, I would argue that it is difficult to condense decades of research and technology into a single chapter. Obviously, a lot will be left out in the process. For this reason, I strongly recommended that the reader consult basic college-level biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular biology textbooks to fill in the gaps with regard to knowledge, and/or …