Barnacle Balanus amphitrite adheres by a stepwise cementing process.

Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

PubMedID: 22721507

Burden DK, Barlow DE, Spillmann CM, Orihuela B, Rittschof D, Everett RK, Wahl KJ. Barnacle Balanus amphitrite adheres by a stepwise cementing process. Langmuir. 2012;28(37):13364-72.
Barnacles adhere permanently to surfaces by secreting and curing a thin interfacial adhesive underwater. Here, we show that the acorn barnacle Balanus amphitrite adheres by a two-step fluid secretion process, both contributing to adhesion. We found that, as barnacles grow, the first barnacle cement secretion (BCS1) is released at the periphery of the expanding base plate. Subsequently, a second, autofluorescent fluid (BCS2) is released. We show that secretion of BCS2 into the interface results, on average, in a 2-fold increase in adhesive strength over adhesion by BCS1 alone. The two secretions are distinguishable both spatially and temporally, and differ in morphology, protein conformation, and chemical functionality. The short time window for BCS2 secretion relative to the overall area increase demonstrates that it has a disproportionate, surprisingly powerful, impact on adhesion. The dramatic change in adhesion occurs without measurable changes in interface thickness and total protein content. A fracture mechanics analysis suggests the interfacial material's modulus or work of adhesion, or both, were substantially increased after BCS2 secretion. Addition of BCS2 into the interface generates highly networked amyloid-like fibrils and enhanced phenolic content. Both intertwined fibers and phenolic chemistries may contribute to mechanical stability of the interface through physically or chemically anchoring interface proteins to the substrate and intermolecular interactions. Our experiments point to the need to reexamine the role of phenolic components in barnacle adhesion, long discounted despite their prevalence in structural membranes of arthropods and crustaceans, as they may contribute to chemical processes that strengthen adhesion through intermolecular cross-linking.