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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A cohort of new adhesive proteins identified from transcriptomic analysis of mussel foot glands.

  • Author(s): DeMartini, Daniel G
  • Errico, John M
  • Sjoestroem, Sebastian
  • Fenster, April
  • Waite, J Herbert
  • et al.

The adaptive attachment of marine mussels to a wide range of substrates in a high-energy, saline environment has been explored for decades and is a significant driver of bioinspired wet adhesion research. Mussel attachment relies on a fibrous holdfast known as the byssus, which is made by a specialized appendage called the foot. Multiple adhesive and structural proteins are rapidly synthesized, secreted and moulded by the foot into holdfast threads. About 10 well-characterized proteins, namely the mussel foot proteins (Mfps), the preCols and the thread matrix proteins, are reported as representing the bulk of these structures. To explore how robust this proposition is, we sequenced the transcriptome of the glandular tissues that produce and secrete the various holdfast components using next-generation sequencing methods. Surprisingly, we found around 15 highly expressed genes that have not previously been characterized, but bear key similarities to the previously defined mussel foot proteins, suggesting additional contribution to byssal function. We verified the validity of these transcripts by polymerase chain reaction, cloning and Sanger sequencing as well as confirming their presence as proteins in the byssus. These newly identified proteins greatly expand the palette of mussel holdfast biochemistry and provide new targets for investigation into bioinspired wet adhesion.

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