Analysis of Finnish blue mussel (Mytilus edulis L.) shell: Biomineral ultrastructure, organic-rich interfacial matrix and mechanical behavior

Pezhman Mohammadi (Corresponding Author), Wolfgang Wagermaier, Merja Penttila, Markus B. Linder

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientific


    Studying various marine biomineralized ultrastructures reveals the appearance of common architectural designs and building blocks in materials with fascinating mechanical properties that match perfectly to their biological tasks. Advanced mechanical properties of biological materials are attributed to evolutionary optimized molecular architectures and structural hierarchy. One example which has not yet been structurally investigated in great detail is the shell of Mytilus edulis L. (Finnish blue mussel) found in the archipelago of SW-Finland. Through a combination of various state-of-the-art techniques such as high-resolution electron microscopy imaging, Fourier-transformed infrared spectroscopy, powder X-ray diffraction, synchrotron wide-angle X-ray diffraction, nanoindentation and protein analysis, both the inorganic mineralized components as well as the organic-rich matrix were extensively characterized. We found very similar ultra-architecture across the shell of M. edulis L. as compared to the widely studied and closely related M. edulis. However, we also found interesting differences, for instance in the thickness and degree of orientation of the mineralized layers indicating dissimilar properties and related alterations in the biomineralization processes. Our results show that the shell of M. edulis L. has a gradient of mechanical properties, with the increase in the stiffness and the hardness from anterior to the posterior region of the shell. The shell is made from distinct and recognizable mineralized layers each varying in thickness and microstructural features. At posterior regions of the shell, moving from dorsal to ventral side, these layers are an oblique prismatic layer, a prismatic layer and a nacreous layer, in certified by peer review) is the author/funder. It is made available under a CC-BY 4.0 International license. bioRxiv preprint doi: this version posted August 12, 2019. The copyright holder for this preprint (which was not which the oblique prismatic layer is found to be the main and thickest mineralized layer of the shell. Probing the calcified rods in the oblique prismatic layer using high resolution SEM imaging revealed opening of channels with a diameters of 40-50 nm and lengths up to a micrometer extending through the rods. The chitin and protein have been found to be the main component of the organic-rich interfacial matrix as expected. Protein analysis showed two abundant proteins with sizes around 100 kD and 45 kD which likely not only regulates biomineralization and adhesion of the crystals but also governing the intrinsic-extrinsic toughening in the shell. Overall, this detailed analysis provides new structural insights into biomineralization of marine shells in general.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages21 preprint archive
    Publication statusIn preparation - 16 May 2019
    MoE publication typeNot Eligible


    • Finnish blue mussel
    • Chitin
    • Interfacial matrix protein
    • Biomineralization


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