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1.  The adhesion of mussel foot protein-3 to TiO2 surfaces: the effect of pH 
Biomacromolecules  2013;14(4):1072-1077.
The underwater adhesion of marine mussels relies on mussel foot proteins (mfps) rich in the catecholic amino acid 3, 4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (Dopa). As a side-chain, Dopa is capable of strong bidentate interactions with a variety of surfaces, including many minerals and metal oxides. Titanium is among the most widely used medical implant material and quickly forms a TiO2 passivation layer under physiological conditions. Understanding the binding mechanism of Dopa to TiO2 surfaces is therefore of considerable theoretical and practical interest. Using a surface forces apparatus, we explored the force-distance profiles and adhesion energies of mussel foot protein 3 (mfp-3) to TiO2 surfaces at three different pHs (pH3, 5.5 and 7.5). At pH3, mfp-3 showed the strongest adhesion force on TiO2, with an adhesion energy of ~ −7.0 mJ/m2. Increasing the pH gives rise to two opposing effects: (1) increased oxidation of Dopa, thus decreasing availability for the Dopa-mediated adhesion, and (2) increased bidentate Dopa-Ti coordination, leading to the further stabilization of the Dopa group and thus an increasing of adhesion force. Both effects were reflected in the resonance-enhanced Raman spectra obtained at the three deposition pHs. The two competing effects give rise to a higher adhesion force of mfp-3 on TiO2 surface at pH 7.5 than at pH 5.5. Our results suggest that Dopa-containing proteins and synthetic polymers have great potential as coating materials for medical implant materials, particularly if redox activity can be controlled.
doi:10.1021/bm301908y
PMCID: PMC3635841  PMID: 23452271
2.  Hydrophobic enhancement of Dopa-mediated adhesion in a mussel foot protein 
Dopa (3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine) is recognized as a key chemical signature of mussel adhesion and has been adopted into diverse synthetic polymer systems. Dopa’s notorious susceptibility to oxidation, however, poses significant challenges to the practical translation of mussel adhesion. Using a Surface Forces Apparatus to investigate the adhesion of Mfp3 (mussel foot protein 3) slow, a hydrophobic protein variant of the Mfp3 family in the plaque, we have discovered a subtle molecular strategy correlated with hydrophobicity that appears to compensate for Dopa instability. At pH 3, where Dopa is stable, Mfp3 slow like Mfp3 fast adhesion to mica is directly proportional to the mol% of Dopa present in the protein. At pH 5.5 and 7.5, however, loss of adhesion in Mfp3 slow was less than half that occurring in Mfp3 fast, purportedly because Dopa in Mfp3 slow is less prone to oxidation. Indeed, cyclic voltammetry showed that the oxidation potential of Dopa in Mfp3 slow is significantly higher than in Mfp3 fast at pH 7.5. A much greater difference between the two variants was revealed in the interaction energy of two symmetric Mfp3 slow films (Ead = −3 mJ/m2). This energy corresponds to the energy of protein cohesion which is notable for its reversibility and pH-independence. Exploitation of aromatic hydrophobic sequences to protect Dopa against oxidation as well as to mediate hydrophobic and H-bonding interactions between proteins provides new insights for developing effective artificial underwater adhesives.
doi:10.1021/ja309590f
PMCID: PMC3587158  PMID: 23214725
3.  Mussel protein adhesion depends on thiol-mediated redox modulation 
Nature chemical biology  2011;7(9):588-590.
Mussel adhesion is mediated by foot proteins (mfp) rich in a catecholic amino acid, 3, 4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (dopa), capable of forming strong bidentate interactions with a variety of surfaces. A facile tendency toward auto-oxidation, however, often renders dopa unreliable for adhesion. Mussels limit dopa oxidation during adhesive plaque formation by imposing an acidic, reducing regime based on thiol-rich mfp-6, which restores dopa by coupling the oxidation of thiols to dopaquinone reduction.
doi:10.1038/nchembio.630
PMCID: PMC3158268  PMID: 21804534
4.  The Contribution of DOPA to Substrate–Peptide Adhesion and Internal Cohesion of Mussel-Inspired Synthetic Peptide Films 
Advanced functional materials  2010;20(23):4196-4205.
Mussels use a variety of 3, 4-dihydroxyphenyl-l-alanine (DOPA) rich proteins specifically tailored to adhering to wet surfaces. Synthetic polypeptide analogues of adhesive mussel foot proteins (specifically mfp-3) are used to study the role of DOPA in adhesion. The mussel-inspired peptide is a random copolymer of DOPA and N5 -(2-hydroxyethyl)-l-glutamine synthesized with DOPA concentrations of 0–27 mol% and molecular weights of 5.9–7.1 kDa. Thin films (3–5 nm thick) of the mussel-inspired peptide are used in the surface forces apparatus (SFA) to measure the force–distance profiles and adhesion and cohesion energies of the films in an acetate buffer. The adhesion energies of the mussel-inspired peptide films to mica and TiO2 surfaces increase with DOPA concentration. The adhesion energy to mica is 0.09 μJ m−2 molDOPA−1 and does not depend on contact time or load. The adhesion energy to TiO2 is 0.29 μJ m−2 molDOPA−1 for short contact times and increases to 0.51 μJ m−2 molDOPA−1 for contact times >60 min in a way suggestive of a phase transition within the film. Oxidation of DOPA to the quinone form, either by addition of periodate or by increasing the pH, increases the thickness and reduces the cohesion of the films. Adding thiol containing polymers between the oxidized films recovers some of the cohesion strength. Comparison of the mussel-inspired peptide films to previous studies on mfp-3 thin films show that the strong adhesion and cohesion in mfp-3 films can be attributed to DOPA groups favorably oriented within or at the interface of these films.
doi:10.1002/adfm.201000932
PMCID: PMC3098815  PMID: 21603098

Results 1-5 (5)