Researchers at the University of Warwick and the University of Sheffield have applied computing power to crack a problem in egg shell formation. The work may also give a partial answer to the age old question "what came first the chicken or the egg?"
The answer to the question in this context is "chicken" or at least a particular chicken protein. There is however a further twist in that this particular chicken protein turns out to come both first and last. That neat trick it performs provides new insights into control of crystal growth which is key to egg shell production.
Researchers had long known that a chicken eggshell protein called ovocledidin-17 (OC-17) must play some role in egg shell formation. The protein is found only in the mineral region of the egg (the hard part of the shell) and lab bench results showed that it appeared to influence the transformation of amorphous calcium carbonate (CaCo3) into calcite crystals. The mechanism of this control remained unclear. How this process could be used to form an actual eggshell remained unclear.
University of Warwick researchers Mark Rodger and David Quigley, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Sheffield, have now been able to apply a powerful computing tool called metadynamics and the UK national supercomputer in Edinburgh to crack this egg problem.
Dr David Quigley from the Department of Physics and Centre for Scientific Computing, University of Warwick, said: "Metadynamics extends conventional molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and is particularly good at sampling transitions between disordered and ordered states of matter."
Using these tools The Warwick and Sheffield researchers were able to create simulations that showed exactly how the protein bound to amorphous calcium carbonate surface using two clusters of "arginine residues", located on two loops of the protein and creating a literal chemical "clamp" to nano sized particl
|Contact: Peter Dunn|
University of Warwick