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Nature Thought Of It First

Credit: T. Priemel
A scanning electron micrograph (left) shows part of a microchannel within the glue-secreting organ of a mussel. The channel is lined with cilia (blue). Mussels release adhesive protein sacs (green) from their tissues (yellow) into the microchannels. The sacs rupture, forming a fluid mass (purple). The mussel also releases metal particles into the channel, where they help crosslink the proteins and cure the glue. A 3D reconstruction of SEMs (right) gives a view across an entire microchannel. Microchannels are 10–100 µm across.

The latest is combining two components to make an enormously strong glue, as we do with epoxy. That’s what mussels have been doing much longer.

Mussels live in a difficult environment – sea rocks between the tide lines. They are constantly battered by waves. They glue themselves to the rocks with a glue that they form by mixing iron and vanadium compounds.

Tobias Priemel, Gurveer Palia, Frank Förste, Franziska Jehle, Ioanna Mantouvalou, Paul Zaslansky, Luca Bertinetti, and Matthew Harrington, at McGill University, found that mechanism. The photo illustrates how it works. And vanadium is a very rare metal in biological processes.

Longer article here, and preprint here.

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner

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