June 19, 2019
Journal Article

Reconciling disparate views of template-directed nucleation through measurement of calcite nucleation kinetics and binding energies

Nizhou Han
Debin Wang
Patricia Dove
Laura Hamm
Anthony Giuffre
Jinhui Tao
Jim De Yoreo
The physical basis for how macromolecules regulate the onset of mineral formation in calcifying tissues is not well established. A popular conceptual model assumes the organic matrix provides a stereochemical match during cooperative organization of solute ions. In contrast, another uses simple binding assays to identify good promoters of nucleation. Here, we reconcile these two views and provide a mechanistic explanation for template-directed nucleation by correlating heterogeneous nucleation barriers with crystal–substrate-binding free energies. We first measure the kinetics of calcite nucleation onto model substrates that present different functional group chemistries (carboxyl, thiol, phosphate, and hydroxyl) and conformations (C11 and C16 chain lengths). We find rates are substrate-specific and obey predictions of classical nucleation theory at supersaturations that extend above the solubility of amorphous calcium carbonate. Analysis of the kinetic data shows the thermodynamic barrier to nucleation is reduced by minimizing the interfacial free energy of the system, ?. We then use dynamic force spectroscopy to independently measure calcite–substrate-binding free energies, ?Gb. Moreover, we show that within the classical theory of nucleation, ? and ?Gb should be linearly related. The results bear out this prediction and demonstrate that low-energy barriers to nucleation correlate with strong crystal–substrate binding. This relationship is general to all functional group chemistries and conformations. These findings provide a physical model that reconciles the long-standing concept of templated nucleation through stereochemical matching with the conventional wisdom that good binders are good nucleators. The alternative perspectives become internally consistent when viewed through the lens of crystal–substrate binding.

Revised: June 19, 2019 | Published: January 28, 2014

Hamm L.M., A.J. Giuffre, N. Han, J. Tao, D. Wang, J.J. De Yoreo, and P.M. Dove. 2014. "Reconciling disparate views of template-directed nucleation through measurement of calcite nucleation kinetics and binding energies." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, no. 4:1304-1309. PNNL-SA-106704. doi:10.1073/pnas.1312369111