Strong underwater adhesives are attractive materials for biomedical healing and underwater repair, but their success in applications has been limited, owing to challenges with underwater setting and with balancing surface adhesion and cohesion. Here, we applied synthetic biology approaches to overcome these challenges through design and synthesis of a novel hybrid protein consisting of the zipper-forming domains of an amyloid protein, flexible spider silk sequences, and a dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA)-containing mussel foot protein (Mfp). This partially structured, hybrid protein can self-assemble into a semi-crystalline hydrogel that exhibits high strength and toughness as well as strong underwater adhesion to a variety of surfaces, including difficult-to-adhere plastics, tendon, and skin. The hydrogel allows selective debonding by oxidation or iron-chelating treatments. Both the material design and the biosynthetic approach explored in this study will inspire future work for a wide range of hybrid protein-based materials with tunable properties and broad applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48457-48468
Number of pages12
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 20 2021


  • amyloid beta-peptides
  • mussel foot protein
  • protein materials
  • synthetic biology
  • underwater adhesive


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