Adhesive proteins of stalked and acorn barnacles display homology with low sequence similarities
Barnacle adhesion underwater is an important phenomenon to understand for the prevention of biofouling and potential biotechnological innovations, yet so far, identifying what makes barnacle glue proteins 'sticky' has proved elusive. Examination of a broad range of species within the barnacles may be instructive to identify conserved adhesive domains. We add to extensive information from the acorn barnacles (order Sessilia) by providing the first protein analysis of a stalked barnacle adhesive, Lepas anatifera (order Lepadiformes). It was possible to separate the L. anatifera adhesive into at least 10 protein bands using SDS-PAGE. Intense bands were present at approximately 30, 70, 90 and 110 kilodaltons (kDa). Mass spectrometry for protein identification was followed by de novo sequencing which detected 52 peptides of 7-16 amino acids in length. None of the peptides matched published or unpublished transcriptome sequences, but some amino acid sequence similarity was apparent between L. anatifera and closely-related Dosima fascicularis. Antibodies against two acorn barnacle proteins (ab-cp-52k and ab-cp-68k) showed cross-reactivity in the adhesive glands of L. anatifera. We also analysed the similarity of adhesive proteins across several barnacle taxa, including Pollicipes pollicipes (a stalked barnacle in the order Scalpelliformes). Sequence alignment of published expressed sequence tags clearly indicated that P. pollicipes possesses homologues for the 19 kDa and 100 kDa proteins in acorn barnacles. Homology aside, sequence similarity in amino acid and gene sequences tended to decline as taxonomic distance increased, with minimum similarities of 18-26%, depending on the gene. The results indicate that some adhesive proteins (e.g. 100 kDa) are more conserved within barnacles than others (20 kDa).