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Impact of Molecular Architecture and Adsorption Density on Adhesion of Mussel-Inspired Surface Primers with Catechol-Cation Synergy.


Marine mussels secrete proteins rich in residues containing catechols and cationic amines that displace hydration layers and adhere to charged surfaces under water via a cooperative binding effect known as catechol-cation synergy. Mussel-inspired adhesives containing paired catechol and cationic functionalities are a promising class of materials for biomedical applications, but few studies address the molecular adhesion mechanism(s) of these materials. To determine whether intramolecular adjacency of these functionalities is necessary for robust adhesion, a suite of siderophore analog surface primers was synthesized with systematic variations in intramolecular spacing between catechol and cationic functionalities. Adhesion measurements conducted with a surface forces apparatus (SFA) allow adhesive failure to be distinguished from cohesive failure and show that the failure mode depends critically on the siderophore analog adsorption density. The adhesion of these molecules to muscovite mica in an aqueous electrolyte solution demonstrates that direct intramolecular adjacency of catechol and cationic functionalities is not necessary for synergistic binding. However, we show that increasing the catechol-cation spacing by incorporating nonbinding domains results in decreased adhesion, which we attribute to a decrease in the density of catechol functionalities. A mechanism for catechol-cation synergy is proposed based on electrostatically driven adsorption and subsequent binding of catechol functionalities. This work should guide the design of new adhesives for binding to charged surfaces in saline environments.

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