Metals and the integrity of a biological coating: the cuticle of mussel byssus

Langmuir. 2009 Apr 9;25(6):3323-6. doi: 10.1021/la8027012.


The cuticle of mussel byssal threads is a robust natural coating that combines high extensibility with high stiffness and hardness. In this study, fluorescence microscopy and elemental analysis were exploited to show that the 3,4-dihydroxyphenyl-L-alanine (dopa) residues of mussel foot protein-1 colocalize with Fe and Ca distributions in the cuticle of Mytilus galloprovincialis mussel byssal threads. Chelated removal of Fe and Ca from the cuticle of intact threads resulted in a 50% reduction in cuticle hardness, and thin sections subjected to the same treatment showed a disruption of cuticle integrity. Dopa-metal complexes may provide significant interactions for the integrity of composite cuticles deformed under tension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Bivalvia
  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Levodopa / chemistry
  • Metals / chemistry*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning / methods
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission / methods
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Models, Chemical
  • Mytilus / metabolism
  • Surface Properties


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Metals
  • Levodopa
  • Iron
  • Calcium