The green mussel is known for being a notoriously invasive fouling species, but scientists have just discovered that it also has a very powerful form of adhesion in its foot, according to a recent article in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The stickiness of the mussel's foot could possibly be copied to form new man-made adhesives.
Other mussels have inspired synthetic polymers that have been made into versatile adhesives and coatings, explained J. Herbert Waite, senior author and a professor in UC Santa Barbara's Marine Science Institute. They all rely on proteins that contain an amino acid called "Dopa," (identical to the Dopa used to treat Parkinson's disease) and have been studied extensively by Waite and his research group.
Waite learned that the green mussel, Perna viridis, relies on an alternative to the common "Dopa" chemistry, based on an elaborate modification of the amino acid tryptophan in the green mussel's adhesive protein. Its adhesive chemistry is much more complicated than that of mussels previously studied. It took Waite and his team six years to unravel the story.
The green mussel's sticky adhesiveness has the potential to help form strong bonds in wet surfaces, including teeth and bones. In addition, the adhesive could be used to repair ships that have developed cracks while at sea and must be repaired in a wet environment.