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Biochemical and functional characterisation of eggshell matrix proteins in hens

  • Y. Nys (a1), J. Gautron (a1), M. D. McKee (a2), J. M. Garcia-Ruiz (a3) and M. T. Hincke (a4)...

The eggshell of the hen is a highly ordered, mineralised structure deposited within an acellular milieu – the uterine fluid secreted by the distal oviduct. Spherulitic crystal growth is initiated by deposition of calcium carbonate on aggregates of organic material present on the outer surface of the eggshell membranes. Gel electrophoresis reveals a complex array of proteins in uterine fluid and eggshell extracts. The eggshell matrix proteins can be classified as egg white proteins (lysozyme, ovalbumin, ovotransferrin, clusterin), bone protein (osteopontin), or proteins specific to the uterus and eggshell (ovocleidins-17 and –116; ovocalyxins-32 and –36). Eggshell extracts, uterine fluid and purified fractions are able to modify the morphology of calcite crystals in vitro. In young hens the breaking strength of the eggshell is inversely related to the degree of calcite orientation. Conversely, reduced strength in eggshell from aged hens coincides with a high variability in crystallographic texture. In guinea fowl the exceptional mechanical properties of the eggshell are explained by an increase in the amount of eggshell produced and particular features of the crystallographic texture. These observations suggest that the eggshell matrix influences the process of crystal growth by controlling size, shape and orientation of calcite crystals. This structural control probably contributes in a substantial manner to the mechanical properties of eggshell.

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World's Poultry Science Journal
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