Biomineralization of calcium phosphate revealed by in situ liquid-phase electron microscopy

Xiaoyue Wang, Jie Yang, Carmen M. Andrei, Leyla Soleymani, and Kathryn Grandfield, 2018

Image courtesy of Protochips


Calcium phosphate biomineralization is essential to the formation of bones and teeth, and other pathological calcifications. Unravelling the mechanism of calcium phosphate nucleation and growth contributes significantly to understanding diseases caused by pathological mineralization, and also to designing biomimetic materials with suitable properties. Recently, calcium phosphate was proposed to mineralize following a non-classical crystal growth pathway of pre-nucleation cluster aggregation. Liquid-phase transmission electron microscopy allows dynamic processes to be recorded continuously inside liquid. Here we present direct evidence, based on continuous monitoring in liquid, to confirm that calcium phosphate mineralization from simulated body fluid occurs by particle attachment, shown with nanoscale spatial resolution and sufficient temporal resolution. This work may lay the foundation for future investigation of mineralization in other relevant biological systems in humans and vertebrates.

Impact Statement

The mechanism by which calcium phosphate nucleates and grows in solution was observed in real time using LC-TEM. Nanoparticles were observed to nucleate from the precursor solution within two minutes beginning imaging and growth was occurred via a particle attachment mechanism which agrees with previous ex-situ studies performed via cyro-electron microscopy.