Invasive green mussel may pave way for novel man-made adhesives

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Washington, Aug 28 (ANI): While the green mussel is known for being a notoriously invasive fouling species, scientists have now found that it also has a very powerful form of adhesion in its foot.

J. Herbert Waite, senior author and a professor in UC Santa Barbara's Marine Science Institute, believes that it may soon be possible to mimic the stickiness of the mussel's foot to form new man-made adhesives.

He says that many other mussels have inspired synthetic polymers that have been made into versatile adhesives and coatings.

They all rely on proteins that contain an amino acid called "Dopa," (identical to the Dopa used to treat Parkinson's disease), and have been studied extensively by Waite and his research group.

They found that the green mussel, Perna viridis, relies on an alternative to the common "Dopa" chemistry, which relies on an elaborate modification of the amino acid tryptophan in the green mussel's adhesive protein.

Its adhesive chemistry is much more complicated than that of mussels previously studied, and thus it took the researchers six years to unravel the story.

The green mussel's sticky adhesiveness has the potential to help form strong bonds in wet surfaces, including teeth and bones.

In addition, the adhesive could be used to repair ships that have developed cracks while at sea and must be repaired in a wet environment.

Waite was first alerted to the complicated adhesive of the green mussel when a Japanese group contacted him to comment on their research on the animal.

Then, he learnt of an infestation of green mussels in Tampa Bay, Florida.

On further study, he found that the aggressive green mussel had moved from India's Sea of Bengal to many locations around the world, including the coasts of Japan, Australia, Korea, China, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

Besides, it also invaded many Pacific Islands and the coasts of some countries surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.

"People are interested in how they invade, adapt, and spread so easily," said Waite.

Waite asked the U.S. Geological Survey and Florida Sea Grant to send him frozen specimens from Tampa Bay, as this is the only way that California would allow the green mussel to be shipped into the state.

The feet were severed from about 100 freshly shucked mussels. After thawing, they were placed in a tissue grinder and then centrifuged for study.

The study has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. (ANI)

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