The terrestrial slug Arion subfuscus secretes a glue that is a dilute gel with remarkable adhesive and cohesive strength. The function of this glue depends on metals, raising the possibility that metal-catalyzed oxidation plays a role. The extent and time course of protein oxidation was measured by immunoblotting to detect the resulting carbonyl groups. Several proteins, particularly one with a relative molecular mass (Mr) of 165ϫ103, were heavily oxidized. Of the proteins known to distinguish the glue from non-adhesive mucus, only specific size variants were oxidized. The oxidation appears to occur within the first few seconds of secretion. Although carbonyls were detected by 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) in denatured proteins, they were not easily detected in the native state. The presence of reversible cross-links derived from carbonyls was tested for by treatment with sodium borohydride, which would reduce uncross-linked carbonyls to alcohols, but stabilize imine bonds formed by carbonyls and thus lead to less soluble complexes. Consistent with imine bond formation, sodium borohydride led to a 20–35% decrease in the amount of soluble protein with a Mr of 40–165 (ϫ103) without changing the carbonyl content per protein. In contrast, the nucleophile hydroxylamine, which would competitively disrupt imine bonds, increased protein solubility in the glue. Finally, the primary amine groups on a protein with a Mr of 15ϫ103 were not accessible to acid anhydrides. The results suggest that cross-links between aldehydes and primary amines contribute to the cohesive strength of the glue.
Journal of Experimental Biology
Bradshaw, Andrew; Salt, Michael; Bell, Ashley; Zeitler, Matt; Zeitler, Noelle; and Smith, Andrew M., "Cross-linking by protein oxidation in the rapidly setting gel-based glues of slugs" (2011). Biology Faculty Publications and Presentations. 39.