Collagen intrafibrillar mineralization as a result of the balance between osmotic equilibrium and electroneutrality

Li Na Niu, Sang Eun Jee, Kai Jiao, Lige Tonggu, Mo Li, Liguo Wang, Yao Dong Yang, Ji Hong Bian, Lorenzo Breschi, Seung Soon Jang, Ji Hua Chen, David H. Pashley, Franklin R. Tay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


Mineralization of fibrillar collagen with biomimetic process-directing agents has enabled scientists to gain insight into the potential mechanisms involved in intrafibrillar mineralization. Here, by using polycation- and polyanion-directed intrafibrillar mineralization, we challenge the popular paradigm that electrostatic attraction is solely responsible for polyelectrolyte-directed intrafibrillar mineralization. As there is no difference when a polycationic or a polyanionic electrolyte is used to direct collagen mineralization, we argue that additional types of long-range non-electrostatic interaction are responsible for intrafibrillar mineralization. Molecular dynamics simulations of collagen structures in the presence of extrafibrillar polyelectrolytes show that the outward movement of ions and intrafibrillar water through the collagen surface occurs irrespective of the charges of polyelectrolytes, resulting in the experimentally verifiable contraction of the collagen structures. The need to balance electroneutrality and osmotic equilibrium simultaneously to establish Gibbs-Donnan equilibrium in a polyelectrolyte-directed mineralization system establishes a new model for collagen intrafibrillar mineralization that supplements existing collagen mineralization mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-378
Number of pages9
JournalNature Materials
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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