Marine Biotechnology

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 490–501 | Cite as

Cultured Pearl Surface Quality Profiling by the Shell Matrix Protein Gene Expression in the Biomineralised Pearl Sac Tissue of Pinctada margaritifera

  • Carole Blay
  • Serge Planes
  • Chin-Long KyEmail author
Original Article


Nucleated pearls are produced by molluscs of the Pinctada genus through the biomineralisation activity of the pearl sac tissue within the recipient oyster. The pearl sac originates from graft tissue taken from the donor oyster mantle and its functioning is crucial in determining key factors that impact pearl quality surface characteristics. The specific role of related gene regulation during gem biogenesis was unknown, so we analysed the expression profiles of eight genes encoding nacreous (PIF, MSI60, PERL1) or prismatic (SHEM5, PRISM, ASP, SHEM9) shell matrix proteins or both (CALC1) in the pearl sac (N = 211) of Pinctada margaritifera during pearl biogenesis. The pearls and pearl sacs analysed were from a uniform experimental graft with sequential harvests at 3, 6 and 9 months post-grafting. Quality traits of the corresponding pearls were recorded: surface defects, surface deposits and overall quality grade. Results showed that (1) the first 3 months of culture seem crucial for pearl quality surface determination and (2) all the genes (SHEM5, PRISM, ASP, SHEM9) encoding proteins related to calcite layer formation were over-expressed in the pearl sacs that produced low pearl surface quality. Multivariate regression tree building clearly identified three genes implicated in pearl surface quality, SHEM9, ASP and PIF. SHEM9 and ASP were clearly implicated in low pearl quality, whereas PIF was implicated in high quality. Results could be used as biomarkers for genetic improvement of P. margaritifera pearl quality and constitute a novel perspective to understanding the molecular mechanism of pearl formation.


Biomineralisation Relative gene expression Pearl sac Biomarkers Pearl quality Pinctada margaritifera 



The authors would especially like to thank the host sites: SCA Regahiga Pearls (Mangareva island, Gambier archipelago, French Polynesia) and Gauguin’s pearl farm (Rangiroa atoll, Tuamotu archipelago, French Polynesia) for their generous support. The authors are indebted to S. Parrad and S. Nakasai for their helpful assistance. C. Blay was jointed funded by an Ifremer PhD grant, with a support from the “Direction des ressources marines” and CRIOBE EPHE.

Funding Information

This study was supported by grants from the “Direction des ressources marines et Minières”, through the TripaGEN project (2015–2017).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

10126_2018_9811_MOESM1_ESM.doc (50 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 50 kb)
10126_2018_9811_MOESM2_ESM.doc (208 kb)
ESM 2 (DOC 208 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ifremer, UMR EIO241, Labex Corail, Centre du PacifiqueTaravaoFrench Polynesia
  2. 2.PSL Research University: EPHE-UPVD-CNRS, USR 3278 CRIOBE, Université de PerpignanPerpignan CedexFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’Excellence “CORAIL”TahitiFrench Polynesia

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