American Chemical Society
Central Ohio Valley Section
Department of Chemistry
The California mussel, Mytilus californianus, adheres robustly in the high-energy and oxidizing intertidal zone with a fibrous holdfast called the byssus. The byssus is composed of cm long threads each terminating in an adhesive plaque. Byssal plaques mediate sessile attachment in part through proteins with “sticky” catecholic sidechains that reversibly adhere to a variety of surfaces with near-covalent bond energy. The plaque and thread are covered with an outer protective coating called the cuticle that’s high stiffness and extensibility make it one of the most energy-tolerant materials known. Overall, the mussel byssus represents an excellent model system for understanding adaptive mechanisms of both underwater adhesives (plaque) and tough materials (cuticle). I will discuss both plaque-associated mechanisms (antioxidant activity) and cuticle-associated mechanisms supporting adhesion including delivery of materials underwater, iron binding, and friction. I will argue that these supporting mechanisms are intimately linked and ultimately responsible for the durable and dynamic underwater adhesion of mussels in the intertidal zone. Our results reveal a significant untapped potential for antioxidants, coacervates and metals in applications that require adhesion, lubrication, and wear protection. These applications include underwater adhesives, artificial joints, contact lenses, dental sealants, and hair and skin conditioners.
Dusty Rose Miller, Ph.D. received her doctoral degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of California Santa Barbara in 2015 and is now a post-doctoral scholar at Vanderbilt University in the lab of Prof. David Cliffel.
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