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Iron-Clad Fibers: A Metal-Based Biological Strategy for Hard Flexible Coatings

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Science  09 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5975, pp. 216-220
DOI: 10.1126/science.1181044

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Mussel Fibers

While it is possible to make strong fibers or threads from organic materials, most suffer from high wear abrasion. Marine mussels attach themselves to rocky seashores using a series of byssal threads. Despite the constant rubbing caused by the motion of the tides, the threads show high wear resistance. Harrington et al. (p. 216, published online 4 March; see the Perspective by Messersmith) now find that the threads are protected by a proteinaceous outer cuticle that is rich in the amino acid 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (dopa), which is known to be a strong adhesive. The cuticle is also rich in metal ions, primarily Fe3+. The dopa-metal crosslinks helped to form the tough outer coating.

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