The polymeric matrix of mineralized tissues controls the form and structure of the mineral that is deposited. This matrix has an insoluble fraction which provides a structural framework for the mineralized tissue, and a soluble fraction which is rich in polyanionic
macromolecules. One hypothesis envisages mineral being nucleated by an atomic dimensional matching between crystal lattice and anionic spacing in the polyanionic macromolecules. An alternate hypothesis considers that fixed polyanions provide a surface for an adsorbed layer, enriched in lattice ions by ionotropy, to induce mineral formation from the metastable body fluids.
We found that soluble matrix polyanions, immobilized by attachment to insoluble substrates, would induce mineral from metastable solutions. The insoluble substrates included natural and synthetic hydrogels not derived from mineralized tissues. Whether the polyanions were prepared from apatitic or CaCO3 tissues, the mineral induced was independent of the source and was determined by the composition of the solution. Other immobilized, calcium-binding, polyanionic macromolecules, obtained from non-mineralizing tissues, also induced mineral.
These and other data indicate that mineral induction by biological matrices is less specific than implied in the atomic dimensional matching extension of the epitaxial hypothesis.