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J R Soc Interface. 2006 Jun 22;3(8):441-51.

Characterization of the structure and composition of gecko adhesive setae.

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  • 1Central Research and Development, EI DuPont de Nemours and Company, Experimental Station, Wilmington, DE 19880-0328, USA.

Abstract

The ability of certain reptiles to adhere to vertical (and hang from horizontal) surfaces has been attributed to the presence of specialized adhesive setae on their feet. Structural and compositional studies of such adhesive setae will contribute significantly towards the design of biomimetic fibrillar adhesive materials. The results of electron microscopy analyses of the structure of such setae are presented, indicating their formation from aggregates of proteinaceous fibrils held together by a matrix and potentially surrounded by a limiting proteinaceous sheath. Microbeam X-ray diffraction analysis has shown conclusively that the only ordered protein constituent in these structures exhibits a diffraction pattern characteristic of beta-keratin. Raman microscopy of individual setae, however, clearly shows the presence of additional protein constituents, some of which may be identified as alpha-keratins. Electrophoretic analysis of solubilized setal proteins supports these conclusions, indicating the presence of a group of low-molecular-weight beta-keratins (14-20 kDa), together with alpha-keratins, and this interpretation is supported by immunological analyses.

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