The effect of molluscan glue proteins on gel mechanics

Document Type


Publication Date



Several molluscs have been shown to alternate between a non-adhesive trail mucus and a similar gel that forms a strong glue. The major structural difference between the two secretions is the presence of specific proteins in the adhesive mucus. The present study identifies similar proteins from the glue of the slug Arion subfuscus and the land snail Helix aspersa. To investigate the role played by these proteins in adhesion, the proteins were isolated from the adhesive mucus of different molluscs and added to commercial polymer solutions. The effect was observed qualitatively, and quantified using a dynamic rheometer. The isolated proteins triggered gelling or visible stiffening of agar, pectin and polygalacturonic acid. The effect was stronger on more negatively charged polymers. The effect of the proteins was concentration dependent with an optimal concentration of 1-1.5 mg ml , and was weakened when their structure changed. Other proteins and carbohydrates found in the adhesive mucus had no clear mechanical effect on gels. These findings show that the addition of these proteins to large, anionic polymers plays a central role in the formation of a glue from a mucus-like secretion. Such a mechanism may be common among invertebrates, and it may guide biomimetic approaches in the development of glues and gels. -1

Publication Name

Journal of Experimental Biology

Volume Number


First Page


Last Page


Issue Number




This document is currently not available here.