Exploiting mammalian low-complexity domains for liquid-liquid phase separation–driven underwater adhesive coatings

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Science Advances  23 Aug 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 8, eaax3155
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax3155


Many biological materials form via liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS), followed by maturation into a solid-like state. Here, using a biologically inspired assembly mechanism designed to recapitulate these sequential assemblies, we develop ultrastrong underwater adhesives made from engineered proteins containing mammalian low-complexity (LC) domains. We show that LC domain–mediated LLPS and maturation substantially promotes the wetting, adsorption, priming, and formation of dense, uniform amyloid nanofiber coatings on diverse surfaces (e.g., Teflon), and even penetrating difficult-to-access locations such as the interiors of microfluidic devices. Notably, these coatings can be deposited on substrates over a broad range of pH values (3 to 11) and salt concentrations (up to 1 M NaCl) and exhibit strong underwater adhesion performance. Beyond demonstrating the utility of mammalian LC domains for driving LLPS in soft materials applications, our study illustrates a powerful example of how combining LLPS with subsequent maturation steps can be harnessed for engineering protein-based materials.

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