Increase in Charge and Density Improves the Strength and Toughness of Mussel Foot Protein 5 Inspired Protein Materials

JJ Graham and S Keten, ACS BIOMATERIALS SCIENCE & ENGINEERING, 9, 4662-4672 (2023).

DOI: 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.3c00088

Mussel foot protein 5 (fp5) found in the adhesive byssal plaque of Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis exhibits exceptional underwater adhesion to diverse surfaces to the extent that adhesion strength typically exceeds the cohesive strength of the plaque. While sequence effects such as presence of charged residues, metal ion coordination, and high catechol content have been identified to govern fp5's interaction with surfaces, molecular contributors to its cohesive strength remain to be fully understood. Addressing this issue is critical for designing mussel-inspired sequences for new adhesives and biomaterials enabled by synthetic biology. Here we carry out all-atom molecular dynamics simulations on hydrated model fp5 biopolymer melts to understand how sequence features such as tyrosine and charge content affect packing density and inter-residue and ionic interaction strengths and consequently influence the cohesive strength and toughness. Systematic serine (S) substitutions for lysine (K), arginine (R) and tyrosine (Y) residues reveal that Y to S substitution surprisingly results in improvement of cohesive strength due to densification of the material by removal of steric hindrances, whereas the removal of charge in K and R to S substitutions has a detrimental impact on strength and toughness as it reduces cohesive interactions facilitated by electrostatic interactions. Additionally, melts formed from split fp5 sequences with only C or N terminal halves show distinct mechanical responses that further illustrate the role of charge. Our findings provide new insights for designing materials that could potentially surpass the performance of existing biomolecular and bioinspired adhesives, specifically by tailoring sequences for balancing charge and excluded volume effects.

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