AP7 is a nacre-associated protein of the mollusk shell that forms supramolecular assemblies that nucleate single-crystal aragonite in vitro. AP7 possesses two major sequence regions: a random coil 30-amino acid N-terminal domain (AP7N) and a partially disordered 36-amino acid C-terminal domain (AP7C) that exhibits imperfect sequence homology to the C subclass of the intracellular RING domain family. We report here new findings that implicate the C-RING domain in AP7-mediated supramolecular assembly and single-crystal mineral formation. AP7 protein spontaneously self-assembles over a pH range of 4-9 and is monomeric at pH >9.5. AP7N and AP7C both oligomerize over the pH range of 4-9, with the AP7C sequence closely resembling AP7 in terms of particle morphology and size. In vitro mineralization experiments demonstrate that both AP7N and AP7C form supramolecular assemblies that nucleate single-crystal calcium carbonates. Comparison of previously published nuclear magnetic resonance-based structures of AP7C and AP7N reveals the significant presence of complementary anionic-cationic electrostatic molecular surfaces on AP7C that are not found on AP7N, and this may explain the noted discrepancies between the two domains in terms of self-assembly and single-crystal nucleation. We conclude that the C-RING-like sequence is an important site for AP7 self-association and mineral nucleation, and this represents the first known instance of a RING-like sequence performing these functions within an extracellular protein.
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