An overview of vertebrate mineralization with emphasis on collagen-mineral interaction
The nucleation, growth, and development of mineral crystals through their interaction principally with collagen in normal bone and calcifying tendon have been elaborated by applying a number of different techniques for analysis of the inorganic and organic constituents of these tissues. The methods have included conventional and high voltage electron microscopy, electron diffraction, microscopic tomography and 3D image reconstruction, and atomic force microscopy. This summary presents results of these studies that have now characterized the size, shape, and aspects of the chemical nature of the crystals as well as their orientation, alignment, location, and distribution with respect to collagen. These data have provided the means for understanding more completely the formation and strength of the collagen-mineral composite present in most vertebrate calcifying tissues and, from that information, a basis for the adaptation of such tissues under mechanical constraints. In the context of the latter point, other data are given showing effects on collagen in bone cell cultures subjected to the unloading parameters of spaceflight. Implications of these results may be particularly relevant to explaining loss of bone by humans and other vertebrate animals during missions in space, during situations of extended fracture healing, long-term bedrest, physical immobilization, and related conditions. In a broader sense, the data speak to the response of bone and mineralized vertebrate tissues to changes in gravitational loading and applied mechanical forces in general.