The molecular mechanisms underlying mussel adhesion
Marine mussels are able to firmly affix on various wet surfaces by the overproduction of special mussel foot proteins (mfps). Abundant fundamental studies have been conducted to understand the molecular basis of mussel adhesion, where the catecholic amino acid, L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) has been found to play the major role. These studies continue to inspire the engineering of novel adhesives and coatings with improved underwater performances. Despite the fact that the recent advances of adhesives and coatings inspired by mussel adhesive proteins have been intensively reviewed in literature, the fundamental biochemical and biophysical studies on the origin of the strong and versatile wet adhesion have not been fully covered. In this review, we show how the force measurements at the molecular level by surface force apparatus (SFA) and single molecule atomic force microscopy (AFM) can be used to reveal the direct link between DOPA and the wet adhesion strength of mussel proteins. We highlight a few important technical details that are critical to the successful experimental design. We also summarize many new insights going beyond DOPA adhesion, such as the surface environment and protein sequence dependent synergistic and cooperative binding. We also provide a perspective on a few uncharted but outstanding questions for future studies. A comprehensive understanding on mussel adhesion will be beneficial to the design of novel synthetic wet adhesives for various biomedical applications.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Recent Review Articles