Barnacle cement: a polymerization model based on evolutionary concepts.


Journal Article

Enzymes and biochemical mechanisms essential to survival are under extreme selective pressure and are highly conserved through evolutionary time. We applied this evolutionary concept to barnacle cement polymerization, a process critical to barnacle fitness that involves aggregation and cross-linking of proteins. The biochemical mechanisms of cement polymerization remain largely unknown. We hypothesized that this process is biochemically similar to blood clotting, a critical physiological response that is also based on aggregation and cross-linking of proteins. Like key elements of vertebrate and invertebrate blood clotting, barnacle cement polymerization was shown to involve proteolytic activation of enzymes and structural precursors, transglutaminase cross-linking and assembly of fibrous proteins. Proteolytic activation of structural proteins maximizes the potential for bonding interactions with other proteins and with the surface. Transglutaminase cross-linking reinforces cement integrity. Remarkably, epitopes and sequences homologous to bovine trypsin and human transglutaminase were identified in barnacle cement with tandem mass spectrometry and/or western blotting. Akin to blood clotting, the peptides generated during proteolytic activation functioned as signal molecules, linking a molecular level event (protein aggregation) to a behavioral response (barnacle larval settlement). Our results draw attention to a highly conserved protein polymerization mechanism and shed light on a long-standing biochemical puzzle. We suggest that barnacle cement polymerization is a specialized form of wound healing. The polymerization mechanism common between barnacle cement and blood may be a theme for many marine animal glues.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Dickinson, GH; Vega, IE; Wahl, KJ; Orihuela, B; Beyley, V; Rodriguez, EN; Everett, RK; Bonaventura, J; Rittschof, D

Published Date

  • November 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 212 / Pt 21

Start / End Page

  • 3499 - 3510

PubMed ID

  • 19837892

Pubmed Central ID

  • 19837892

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1477-9145

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-0949

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1242/jeb.029884


  • eng