Design inference Intelligent Design

Sometimes it’s hard for researchers to avoid talking about design in nature

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A friend sent us a note on this this open-access paper:

Abstract: The mussel byssus has long been a source of inspiration for the adhesion community. Recently, adhesive synergy between flanking lysine (Lys, K) and 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA, Y) residues in the mussel foot proteins (Mfps) has been highlighted. However, the complex topological relationship of DOPA and Lys as well as the interfacial adhesive roles of other amino acids have been understudied. Herein, we study adhesion of Lys and DOPA-containing peptides to organic and inorganic substrates using single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS). We show that a modest increase in peptide length, from KY to (KY)3, increases adhesion strength to TiO2. Surprisingly, further increase in peptide length offers no additional benefit. Additionally, comparison of adhesion of dipeptides containing Lys and either DOPA (KY) or phenylalanine (KF) shows that DOPA is stronger and more versatile. We furthermore demonstrate that incorporating a nonadhesive spacer between (KY) repeats can mimic the hidden length in the Mfp and act as an effective strategy to dissipate energy.

Li, Y., Cheng, J., Delparastan, P. et al. Molecular design principles of Lysine-DOPA wet adhesion. Nat Commun 11, 3895 (2020).

Note the Introduction:

One of the great challenges faced by man-made adhesives is binding in the presence of water, salts, and surface contaminants. Marine mussels, on the other hand, have perfected the art of adhering tenaciously to a variety of surfaces in wet conditions. The strong attachment of mussels is mediated by the byssus, a proteinaceous holdfast that is formed by secretion and solidification of specialized adhesive proteins. [. . .] Bioinspired design principles based on mimicking these interfacial proteins have been employed extensively and resulted in a variety of catechol functionalized polymers for bio-compatible adhesives, self-healing hydrogels, and surgical wound closure materials. Nevertheless, the true potential of mussel-inspiration may not be fully realized until the hidden complexities in the structure and biofabrication of these adhesive proteins is revealed. [. . .] Our results shed light on the interplay between chemical sequence and topological structure in the mussel adhesive proteins and provide a solid framework for rational design of bioinspired wet adhesives.

Li, Y., Cheng, J., Delparastan, P. et al. Molecular design principles of Lysine-DOPA wet adhesion. Nat Commun 11, 3895 (2020).

Marine mussals have “perfected the art,” have they? If they just happen to have evolved to be so clever, why don’t they do more? It’s becoming increasingly obvious that something in nature is clever but it isn’t the mussel.


4 Replies to “Sometimes it’s hard for researchers to avoid talking about design in nature

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    Our languages evolved to enable us to communicate with our fellow human beings. We are purposeful agents so it is hardly surprising that our languages embody teleological concepts to the extent that it is hard – although not impossible – to avoid them..

  2. 2
    johnnyb says:

    Seversky – As Crawford points out – if you actually *could* avoid the metaphor, then you would be correct. However, in biology, the meaning and the metaphor are actually much closer than mere conveniences of language.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Seversky, consistent with discredited trollish tactics, refuses to face the reality that in the living cell, as a key component of life processes, we find alphanumeric, 4-state digital string text algorithmic code — thus, necessarily, linguistic and goal-oriented — with associated molecular nanotech execution machinery. thus, LANGUAGE IS ANTECEDENT TO CELL BASED LIFE. No, language did not evolve biologically, it is antecedent to life based on cells which are held by a priori evolutionary materialists to have evolved from first forms to create biodiversity through blind chance and mechanical necessity. Of course the idea that incrementally filtered lucky noise could create the range of biodiversity we see, is itself an appeal to materialistic statistical miracle sustained by question begging a priori ideological commitment to materialism. The failures of this worldview are manifest at many levels. KF

  4. 4
    Truthfreedom says:

    3 Kairosfocus
    Well stated.
    I have proof that
    Materialism/ Physicalism leads to its own demise (irretrievable epistemological failure ).
    (It’s going to be a bit long).

    Aristotle is back. 🙂

    And essential reading:

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