Macromolecular sheets direct the morphology and orientation of plate-like biogenic guanine crystals

Avital Wagner, Alexander Upcher, Raquel Maria, Thorolf Magnesen, Einat Zelinger, Graça Raposo, Benjamin A. Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animals precisely control the morphology and assembly of guanine crystals to produce diverse optical phenomena in coloration and vision. However, little is known about how organisms regulate crystallization to produce optically useful morphologies which express highly reflective crystal faces. Guanine crystals form inside iridosome vesicles within chromatophore cells called iridophores. By following iridosome formation in developing scallop eyes, we show that pre-assembled, fibrillar sheets provide an interface for nucleation and direct the orientation of the guanine crystals. The macromolecular sheets cap the (100) faces of immature guanine crystals, inhibiting growth along the π-stacking growth direction. Crystal growth then occurs preferentially along the sheets to generate highly reflective plates. Despite their different physical properties, the morphogenesis of iridosomes bears a striking resemblance to melanosome morphogenesis in vertebrates, where amyloid sheets template melanin deposition. The common control mechanisms for melanin and guanine formation inspire new approaches for manipulating the morphologies and properties of molecular materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number589
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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