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Langmuir. 2015 Jan 27;31(3):1105-12. doi: 10.1021/la504316q. Epub 2015 Jan 12.

Bridging adhesion of mussel-inspired peptides: role of charge, chain length, and surface type.

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Materials Research Lab, ‡Department of Chemical Engineering, §Materials Department, ∥Biomolecular Science and Engineering Program, and ⊥Department of Molecular, Cell & Development Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara , Santa Barbara, California 93106, United States.


The 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (Dopa)-containing proteins of marine mussels provide attractive design paradigms for engineering synthetic polymers that can serve as high performance wet adhesives and coatings. Although the role of Dopa in promoting adhesion between mussels and various substrates has been carefully studied, the context by which Dopa mediates a bridging or nonbridging macromolecular adhesion to surfaces is not understood. The distinction is an important one both for a mechanistic appreciation of bioadhesion and for an intelligent translation of bioadhesive concepts to engineered systems. On the basis of mussel foot protein-5 (Mfp-5; length 75 res), we designed three short, simplified peptides (15-17 res) and one relatively long peptide (30 res) into which Dopa was enzymatically incorporated. Peptide adhesion was tested using a surface forces apparatus. Our results show that the short peptides are capable of weak bridging adhesion between two mica surfaces, but this adhesion contrasts with that of full length Mfp-5, in that (1) while still dependent on Dopa, electrostatic contributions are much more prominent, and (2) whereas Dopa surface density remains similar in both, peptide adhesion is an order of magnitude weaker (adhesion energy E(ad) ∼ -0.5 mJ/m(2)) than full length Mfp-5 adhesion. Between two mica surfaces, the magnitude of bridging adhesion was approximately doubled (E(ad) ∼ -1 mJ/m(2)) upon doubling the peptide length. Notably, the short peptides mediate much stronger adhesion (E(ad) ∼ -3.0 mJ/m(2)) between mica and gold surfaces, indicating that a long chain length is less important when different interactions are involved on each of the two surfaces.

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