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Extracellular micro and nanostructures forming the velvet worm solidified adhesive secretion

: Corrales Ureña, Yendry Regina; Sanchéz, Angie; Pereira, Reinaldo; Rischka, Klaus; Kowalik, Thomas; Vega-Baudrit, José

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Materials Research Express 4 (2017), No.12, Art. 125013, 10 pp.
ISSN: 2053-1591
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer IFAM ()
adhesive; natural; onycophoran; velvet worm; nanoparticules; protein; crystal

The onycophoran Epiperipatus hilkae secrets a sticky slime that solidifies almost immediately upon contact with air and under high humidy environmental condition forming a glassy like material. The general adhesive biochemical composition, the releasing and hardening mechanism have been partially described. In this study, the structural characterization of the extracellular microstructures and nanostructures forming the solid adhesive of the secretion from Epiperipatus hilkae velvet worm is presented. The adhesive secretion is formed by macro-threads, which, in their solid state, are composed of globular particles approximately 700 nm in diameter that are distributed homogeneously throughout the matrix surface, and nanoparticles approximately 70 nm in diameter that self-assemble forming fiber-like structures. Nanoparticles with non roundish forms are also observed. These 70 nm particles could be associated to proteins that form high density coverage films with low roughness; suggesting the formation of two dimensional ordered films. A crystalline and an amorphous phase composes the solidified secretion. The glassy or viscoelastic properties depend on the time in contact with air before being adhered to a solid surface and/or the mechanical stimulus; suggesting a key role of the drying on the hardening process.