2009 Volume 72 Issue 4+5 Pages 199-207
Amyloid fibrils are primarily known in a pathogenic context for their association with a wide range of debilitating human diseases. Here we show a marine invertebrate (Entobdella soleae) utilizes functional amyloid fibrils comparable to those of a unicellular prokaryote (Escherichia coli). Thioflavin-T binding and Raman spectroscopy provided evidence for the presence of amyloid in the adhesive of Entobdella soleae. We elucidated that for these two very different organisms, amyloid fibrils provide adhesive and cohesive strength to their natural adhesives. Comparing the nanoscale mechanical responses of these fibrils with those of pathogenic amyloid by atomic force microscopy revealed that the molecular level origin of the cohesive strength was associated with the generic intermolecular β-sheet structure of amyloid fibrils. Functional adhesive residues were found only in the case of the functional amyloid. Atomic force microscopy provided a useful means to characterize the internal structural forces within individual amyloid fibrils and how these relate to the mechanical performance of both functional and pathogenic amyloid. The mechanistic link of amyloid-based cohesive and adhesive strength could be widespread amongst natural adhesives, irrespective of environment, providing a new strategy for biomimicry and a new source of materials for understanding the formation and stability of amyloid fibrils more generally.