Mussels use chemical primer to cement themselves to rocks | Science News



Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.

Mystery Solved

Mussels use chemical primer to cement themselves to rocks

One part of glue molecule clears way for second part to glom on to surface

4:58pm, August 10, 2015

STUCK  Mussels may ready their water-soaked sticking spot with a chemical that wipes away grip-busting ions. 

Clinging to rocky shorelines and creaky piers, mussels showcase an enviable superpower:  cementing themselves to wet, slippery surfaces. Until now, researchers didn’t know how the mussels’ glue might work in salty seawater.

To solve the puzzle, scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara turned to a molecule from microbes. The molecule has two striking similarities to proteins that make mussels stick. Both contain molecular fragments called catechol in close proximity to an amino acid called lysine. By tweaking the microbial compound, the researchers figured out what probably makes the mussel’s protein grip.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content