Metals and the integrity of a biological coating: the cuticle of mussel byssus.
ABSTRACT: The cuticle of mussel byssal threads is a robust natural coating that combines high extensibility with high stiffness and hardness. In this study, fluorescence microscopy and elemental analysis were exploited to show that the 3,4-dihydroxyphenyl-L-alanine (dopa) residues of mussel foot protein-1 colocalize with Fe and Ca distributions in the cuticle of Mytilus galloprovincialis mussel byssal threads. Chelated removal of Fe and Ca from the cuticle of intact threads resulted in a 50% reduction in cuticle hardness, and thin sections subjected to the same treatment showed a disruption of cuticle integrity. Dopa-metal complexes may provide significant interactions for the integrity of composite cuticles deformed under tension.
Project description:Metal-containing polymer networks are ubiquitous in biological systems, and their unique structures enable a variety of fascinating biological behaviors. Cuticle of mussel byssal threads, containing Fe-catecholate complexes, shows remarkably high hardness, high extensibility, and self-healing capability. Understanding strengthening and self-healing mechanisms is essential for elucidating animal behaviors and rationally designing mussel-inspired materials. Here, direct evidence of Fe3+ and Fe2+ gradient distribution across the cuticle thickness is demonstrated, which shows more Fe2+ inside the inner cuticle, to support the hypothesis that the cuticle is a functionally graded material with high stiffness, extensibility, and self-healing capacity. The mechanical tests of the mussel threads show that both strength and extensibility of the threads decrease with increasing oxygen contents, but this property degradation can be restored upon removing the oxygen. The first-principles calculations explain the change in iron coordination, which plays a key role in strengthening, degradation, and self-healing of the polymer networks. The oxygen absorbs on metal ions, weakening the iron-catecholate bonds in the cuticle and collagen core, but this process can be reversed by sea water. These findings can have important implications in the design of next-generation bioinspired robust, highly extensible materials, and catalysis.
Project description:For lasting holdfast attachment, the mussel Mytilus californianus coats its byssal threads with a protective cuticle 2-5 microm thick that is 4-6 times stiffer than the underlying collagen fibers. Although cuticle hardness (0.1 GPa) and stiffness (2 GPa) resemble those observed in related mussels, a more effective dispersion of microdamage enables M. californianus byssal threads to sustain strains to almost 120% before cuticle rupture occurs. Underlying factors for the superior damage tolerance of the byssal cuticle were explored in its microarchitecture and in the cuticular protein, mcfp-1. Cuticle microstructure was distinctly granular, with granule diameters (approximately 200 nm) only a quarter of those in M. galloprovincialis cuticle, for example. Compared with homologous proteins in related mussel species, mcfp-1 from M. californianus had a similar mass (approximately 92 kDa) and number of tandemly repeated decapeptides, and contained the same post-translational modifications, namely, trans-4-hydroxyproline, trans-2,3-cis-3,4-dihydroxyproline, and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (Dopa). The prominence of isoleucine in mcfp-1, however, distinguished it from homologues in other species. The complete protein sequence deduced from cDNAs for two related variants revealed a highly conserved consensus decapeptide PKISYPPTYK that is repeated 64 times and differs slightly from the consensus peptide (AKPSYPPTYK) of both M. galloprovincialis and M. edulis proteins.
Project description:Protein-metal coordination interactions were recently found to function as crucial mechanical cross-links in certain biological materials. Mussels, for example, use Fe ions from the local environment coordinated to DOPA-rich proteins to stiffen the protective cuticle of their anchoring byssal attachment threads. Bioavailability of metal ions in ocean habitats varies significantly owing to natural and anthropogenic inputs on both short and geological spatio-temporal scales leading to large variations in byssal thread metal composition; however, it is not clear how or if this affects thread performance. Here, we demonstrate that in natural environments mussels can opportunistically replace Fe ions in the DOPA coordination complex with V and Al. In vitro removal of the native DOPA-metal complexes with ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid and replacement with either Fe or V does not lead to statistically significant changes in cuticle performance, indicating that each metal ion is equally sufficient as a DOPA cross-linking agent, able to account for nearly 85% of the stiffness and hardness of the material. Notably, replacement with Al ions also leads to full recovery of stiffness, but only 82% recovery of hardness. These findings have important implications for the adaptability of this biological material in a dynamically changing and unpredictable habitat.
Project description:The extensible byssal threads of marine mussels are shielded from abrasion in wave-swept habitats by an outer cuticle that is largely proteinaceous and approximately fivefold harder than the thread core. Threads from several species exhibit granular cuticles containing a protein that is rich in the catecholic amino acid 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (dopa) as well as inorganic ions, notably Fe3+. Granular cuticles exhibit a remarkable combination of high hardness and high extensibility. We explored byssus cuticle chemistry by means of in situ resonance Raman spectroscopy and demonstrated that the cuticle is a polymeric scaffold stabilized by catecholato-iron chelate complexes having an unusual clustered distribution. Consistent with byssal cuticle chemistry and mechanics, we present a model in which dense cross-linking in the granules provides hardness, whereas the less cross-linked matrix provides extensibility.
Project description:Metal-containing polymer networks are widespread in biology, particularly for load-bearing exoskeletal biomaterials. Mytilus byssal cuticle is an especially interesting case containing moderate levels of Fe(3+) and cuticle protein-mussel foot protein-1 (mfp-1), which has a peculiar combination of high hardness and high extensibility. Mfp-1, containing 13 mol % of dopa (3, 4-dihydroxyphenylalanine) side-chains, is highly positively charged polyelectrolyte (pI approximately 10) and didn't show any cohesive tendencies in previous surface forces apparatus (SFA) studies. Here, we show that Fe(3+) ions can mediate unusually strong interactions between the positively charged proteins. Using an SFA, Fe(3+) was observed to impart robust bridging (W(ad) approximately 4.3 mJ/m(2)) between two noninteracting mfp-1 films in aqueous buffer approaching the ionic strength of seawater. The Fe(3+) bridging between the mfp-1-coated surfaces is fully reversible in water, increasing with contact time and iron concentration up to 10 microM; at 100 microM, Fe(3+) bridging adhesion is abolished. Bridging is apparently due to the formation of multivalent dopa-iron complexes. Similar Fe-mediated bridging (W(ad) approximately 5.7 mJ/m(2)) by a smaller recombinant dopa-containing analogue indicates that bridging is largely independent of molecular weight and posttranslational modifications other than dopa. The results suggest that dopa-metal interactions may provide an energetic new paradigm for engineering strong, self-healing interactions between polymers under water.
Project description:The marine mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis is tethered to rocks in the intertidal zone by a holdfast known as the byssus. Functioning as a shock absorber, the byssus is composed of threads, the primary molecular components of which are collagen-containing proteins (preCOLs) that largely dictate the higher order self-assembly and mechanical properties of byssal threads. The threads contain additional matrix components that separate and perhaps lubricate the collagenous microfibrils during deformation in tension. In this study, the thread matrix proteins (TMPs), a glycine-, tyrosine- and asparagine-rich protein family, were shown to possess unique repeated sequence motifs, significant transcriptional heterogeneity and were distributed throughout the byssal thread. Deamidation was shown to occur at a significant rate in a recombinant TMP and in the byssal thread as a function of time. Furthermore, charge heterogeneity presumably due to deamidation was observed in TMPs extracted from threads. The TMPs were localized to the preCOL-containing secretory granules in the collagen gland of the foot and are assumed to provide a viscoelastic matrix around the collagenous fibers in byssal threads.
Project description:The byssal threads of the California mussel, Mytilus californianus, are highly hysteretic, elastomeric fibers that collectively perform a holdfast function in wave-swept rocky seashore habitats. Following cyclic loading past the mechanical yield point, threads exhibit a damage-dependent reduction in mechanical performance. However, the distal portion of the byssal thread is capable of recovering initial material properties through a time-dependent healing process in the absence of active cellular metabolism. Byssal threads are composed almost exclusively of multi-domain hybrid collagens known as preCols, which largely determine the mechanical properties of the thread. Here, the structure-property relationships that govern thread mechanical performance are further probed. The molecular rearrangements that occur during yield and damage repair were investigated using time-resolved in situ wide-angle X-ray diffraction (WAXD) coupled with cyclic tensile loading of threads and through thermally enhanced damage-repair studies. Results indicate that the collagen domains in byssal preCols are mechanically protected by the unfolding of sacrificial non-collagenous domains that refold on a slower time-scale. Time-dependent healing is primarily attributed to stochastic recoupling of broken histidine-metal coordination complexes.
Project description:The mussel byssal cuticle employs DOPA-Fe(3+) complexation to provide strong, yet reversible crosslinking. Synthetic constructs employing this design motif based on catechol units are plagued by oxidation-driven degradation of the catechol units and the requirement for highly alkaline pH conditions leading to decreased performance and loss of supramolecular properties. Herein, a platform based on a 4-arm poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogel system is used to explore the utility of DOPA analogues such as the parent catechol and derivatives, 4-nitrocatechol (nCat) and 3-hydroxy-4-pyridinonone (HOPO), as structural crosslinking agents upon complexation with metal ions. HOPO moieties are found to hold particular promise, as robust gelation with Fe(3+) occurs at physiological pH and is found to be largely resistant to oxidative degradation. Gelation is also shown to be triggered by other biorelevant metal ions such as Al(3+), Ga(3+) and Cu(2+) which allows for tuning of the release and dissolution profiles with potential application as injectable delivery systems.
Project description:The mussel cuticle, a thin layer that shields byssal threads from environmental exposure, is a model among high-performance coatings for being both hard and hyper-extensible. However, despite avid interest in translating its features into an engineered material, the mechanisms underlying this performance are manifold and incompletely understood. To deepen our understanding of this biomaterial, we explore here the ultrastructural, scratch-resistant, and mechanical features at the submicrometer scale and relate our observations to individual cuticular components. These investigations show that cuticle nanomechanics are governed by granular microinclusions/nanoinclusions, which, contrary to previous interpretations, are three-fold softer than the surrounding matrix. This adaptation, which is found across several related mussel species, is linked to the level of hydration and presumed to maintain bulk performance during tidal exposures. Given the interest in implementing transfer of biological principles to modern materials, these findings may have noteworthy implications for the design of durable synthetic coatings.
Project description:Mussel foot protein-1 (mfp-1) is an essential constituent of the protective cuticle covering all exposed portions of the byssus (plaque and the thread) that marine mussels use to attach to intertidal rocks. The reversible complexation of Fe(3+) by the 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (Dopa) side chains in mfp-1 in Mytilus californianus cuticle is responsible for its high extensibility (120%) as well as its stiffness (2 GPa) due to the formation of sacrificial bonds that help to dissipate energy and avoid accumulation of stresses in the material. We have investigated the interactions between Fe(3+) and mfp-1 from two mussel species, M. californianus (Mc) and M. edulis (Me), using both surface sensitive and solution phase techniques. Our results show that although mfp-1 homologues from both species bind Fe(3+), mfp-1 (Mc) contains Dopa with two distinct Fe(3+)-binding tendencies and prefers to form intramolecular complexes with Fe(3+). In contrast, mfp-1 (Me) is better adapted to intermolecular Fe(3+) binding by Dopa. Addition of Fe(3+) did not significantly increase the cohesion energy between the mfp-1 (Mc) films at pH 5.5. However, iron appears to stabilize the cohesive bridging of mfp-1 (Mc) films at the physiologically relevant pH of 7.5, where most other mfps lose their ability to adhere reversibly. Understanding the molecular mechanisms underpinning the capacity of M. californianus cuticle to withstand twice the strain of M. edulis cuticle is important for engineering of tunable strain tolerant composite coatings for biomedical applications.