An organic matrix consisting of a protein-polysaccharide complex is generally accepted as an important medium for the calcification process. While the role this "calcified organic matrix" plays in the calcification process has long been appreciated, the complex mixture of proteins that is induced and assembled during the mineral phase of calcification remains uncharacterized in many organisms. Thus, we investigated organic matrices from the calcitic sclerites of a soft coral, Sinularia sp., and used a proteomic approach to identify the functional matrix proteins that might be involved in the biocalcification process. We purified eight organic matrix proteins and performed in-gel digestion using trypsin. The tryptic peptides were separated by nano-liquid chromatography (nano-LC) and analyzed by tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) using a matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) - time-of-flight-time-of-flight (TOF-TOF) mass spectrometer. Periodic acid Schiff staining of an SDS-PAGE gel indicated that four proteins were glycosylated. We identified several proteins, including a form of actin, from which we identified a total of 183 potential peptides. Our findings suggest that many of those peptides may contribute to biocalcification in soft corals.
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