PerspectiveBiological Adhesives

Positive charges and underwater adhesion

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Science  07 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6248, pp. 582-583
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac8174


When visiting a beach, we can see that mussels, oysters, and barnacles attach themselves to rocks even while being pounded by waves. These organisms remain affixed by secreting adhesives. Human efforts to make such wet-setting glues are often foiled by the presence of water. Instructions on tubes of adhesives remind us that the surfaces must be clean and dry, given that our materials interact better with water than with the pieces of a broken dish. On page 628 of this issue, Maier et al. (1) have divulged a potentially key part of the underwater adhesion story. Mussels appear to gain surface access for glues by using their own protein-based ions to outcompete the ions in their saltwater environment.

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