Cross-linking by protein oxidation in the rapidly setting gel-based glues of slugs

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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 (M ) of 165×10 , 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 (×10 ) 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 15×10 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. © 2011. r 3 3 3

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Journal of Experimental Biology

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