American Chemical Society
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Are Conformational Changes, Induced by Osmotic Pressure Variations, the Underlying Mechanism of Controlling the Adhesive Activity of Mussel Adhesive Proteins?

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journal contribution
posted on 2005-11-22, 00:00 authored by Mieke C. van der Leeden
The mussel adhesive protein Mefp-1, under physiological conditions, presumably has a self-avoiding random walk conformation with helix-like or turned deca-peptide segments. Such a conformation may coil up under osmotic pressure induced by surrounding macromolecules. As a consequence, the orientation of the 3,4-dihydroxy-phenylalanine groups (dopa), essential for the adhesive strength as well as the cohesive strength in Mefp-1, will be altered. Changing the concentration of the protein itself or of different-type surrounding macromolecules may therefore be a tool to control the protein's adhesive activity. The effect of osmotic pressure on the conformation and dopa reactivity of Mefp-1 is studied by the addition of (poly)ethylene oxide (PEO) as a model macromolecule (Mw = 100 kD). From UV-spectroscopy measurements, it can be concluded that dopa reactivity in Mefp-1 changes with increasing PEO concentration. Fitting of the measured absorbance intensity data of the oxidation product dopaquinone versus time with a kinetic model points to the decreased accessibility of dopa groups in the Mefp-1 structure, a faster oxidation, and diminished cross linking under the influence of increasing PEO concentration up to 2.4 g/L, corresponding to an osmotic pressure of ∼73 Pa. At higher PEO concentrations, the accessibility of the dopa groups for oxidation as well as cross-link formation decreases until about 20% of the dopa groups are oxidized at a PEO concentration of 3.8 g/L, corresponding to an osmotic pressure of ∼113 Pa. FTIR measurements on the basis of amide I shifts qualitatively point to a transition to a more continuously turned structure of Mefp-1 in the presence of PEO. Therefore, it seems that conformational changes caused by variations of osmotic pressure determine the extent of steric hindrance of the dopa groups and hence the adhesive reactivity of Mefp-1.