The current model for the ultrastructure of the interlamellar membranes of molluscan nacre imply that they consist of a core of aligned chitin fibers surrounded on both sides by acidic proteins. This model was based on observations taken on previously demineralized shells, where the original structure had disappeared. Despite other earlier claims, no direct observations exist in which the different components can be unequivocally discriminated. We have applied different labeling protocols on non-demineralized nacreous shells of the bivalve Pteria. With this method, we have revealed the disposition and nature of the different fibers of the interlamellar membranes that can be observed on the surface of the nacreous shell of the bivalve Pteria hirundo by high resolution scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The minor chitin component consists of very thin fibers with a high aspect ratio and which are seemingly disoriented. Each fiber has a protein coat, which probably forms a complex with the chitin. The chitin-protein-complex fibers are embedded in an additional proteinaceous matrix. This is the first time in which the sizes, positions and distribution of the chitin fibers have been observed in situ.
Osuna-Mascaró, A. J., Cruz-Bustos, T., Marin, F., & Checa, A. G. (2015). Ultrastructure of the interlamellar membranes of the nacre of the bivalve Pteria hirundo, determined by immunolabelling. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0122934