Sticky proteins serve as glue: blue mussel
Byssus threads of the blue mussel attach to a wet, solid surface due to catechols on adhesive proteins that overcome the surface’s affinity for water molecules.
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A key feature of the blue mussel’s unique adhesive chemistry are the presence of the amino acid 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine, with its reactive catechol functional group (two hydroxyl groups sticking out from a benzene ring) that forms strong bonds with catechols on adjacent molecules and with metal atoms present in the surface of most natural solid substrates. Another key feature is the ability of catechol chains to overcome a solid surface's otherwise strong preference for water molecules (which is why conventional adhesives fail on wet surfaces).
New mussel-inspired adhesives, which have wide-ranging applications from surgical to wood composites, currently use soy as an inexpensive, accessible feedstock, and work by blocking certain amino acids in soy proteins that are not present in mussel proteins, such as glutamic acid, so that the resulting compound bears a closer resemblance to that of mussel proteins.
Mytilus edulis Linnaeus, 1758
[edible blue mussel, Common mussel]
IUCN Red List Status: Unknown
Habitat(s): Marine Intertidal
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist
Application Ideas: Adhesive that works underwater or on wet surfaces and is not water soluble. Adhesive that works without formaldehyde, reducing exposure of workers, the public, and the environment to a recognized human carcinogen.
Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction, manufacturingPureBond® technology - Formaldehyde-free wood glue
Medical Implant Coating - Medical implant coating
Geckel nano-adhesive - Wet/dry adhesive
ICMBA bioadhesive - Surgical adhesive
Oregon State University
Phillip B. Messersmith
Biomedical Engineering Department, Northwestern University