American Chemical Society
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Selectively Positioned Catechol Moiety Supports Ultrashort Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel Adhesion for Coral Restoration

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posted on 2023-12-01, 18:34 authored by Manola Moretti, Maria Hountondji, Rui Ge, Abdul-Hamid Emwas, Panayiotis Bilalis, Hepi H. Susapto, Abdulelah Alrashoudi, Xinzhi Liu, Giuseppina R. Briola, Charlotte A. E. Hauser
Coral reef survival is threatened globally. One way to restore this delicate ecosystem is to enhance coral growth by the controlled propagation of coral fragments. To be sustainable, this technique requires the use of biocompatible underwater adhesives. Hydrogels based on rationally designed ultrashort self-assembling peptides (USP) are of great interest for various biological and environmental applications, due to their biocompatibility and tunable mechanical properties. Implementing superior adhesion properties to the USP hydrogel compounds is crucial in both water and high ionic strength solutions and is relevant in medical and marine environmental applications such as coral regeneration. Some marine animals secrete large quantities of the aminoacids dopa and lysine to enhance their adhesion to wet surfaces. Therefore, the addition of catechol moieties to the USP sequence containing lysine (IIZK) should improve the adhesive properties of USP hydrogels. However, it is challenging to place the catechol moiety (Do) within the USP sequence at an optimal position without compromising the hydrogel self-assembly process and mechanical properties. Here, we demonstrate that, among three USP hydrogels, DoIIZK is the least adhesive and that the adhesiveness of the IIZDoK hydrogel is compromised by its poor mechanical properties. The best adhesion outcome was achieved using the IIZKDo hydrogel, the only one to show equally sound adhesive and mechanical properties. A mechanistic understanding of this outcome is presented here. This property was confirmed by the successful gluing of coral fragments by means of IIZKDo hydrogel that are still thriving after more than three years since the deployment. The validated biocompatibility of this underwater hydrogel glue suggests that it could be advantageously implemented for other applications, such as surgical interventions.