During their life, crustaceans undergo several molts, which if theoretically compared to the human body would be equivalent to replacing all bones at a single event. Such a dramatic repetitive event is coupled to unique molecular mechanisms of mineralization so far mostly unknown. Unlike human bone mineralized with calcium phosphate, the crustacean exoskeleton is mineralized mainly by calcium carbonate. Crustacean growth thus necessitates well-timed mobilization of bicarbonate to specific extracellular sites of biomineralization at distinct molt cycle stages. Here, by looking at the crayfish Cherax quadricarinatus at different molting stages, we suggest that the mechanisms of bicarbonate ion transport for mineralization in crustaceans involve the SLC4 family of transporters and that these proteins play a key role in the tight coupling between molt cycle events and mineral deposition. This discovery of putative bicarbonate transporters in a pancrustacean with functional genomic evidence from genes encoding the SLC4 family—mostly known for their role in pH control—is discussed in the context of the evolution of calcium carbonate biomineralization.
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