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Last modified: Thursday, January 25, 2007

$1.2 million NIH grant supports new investigation of nature's strongest glue

Jan. 25, 2007

Caulobacter crescentus

Photo by: Yves Brun

Caulobacter crescentus affixes itself to solid objects with its stalk and holdfast. Here, two sessile "stalk" cells (bottom) spawn mobile "swarmer" clones of themselves (top)

Print-Quality Photo

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A four-year, $1.2 million National Institutes of Health grant will enable Indiana University Bloomington and Brown University scientists to investigate the properties of a natural glue that has many potential applications.

Last year, IUB microbiologist Yves Brun, Brown biophysicist Jay Tang and others reported the discovery of an adhesive substance secreted by the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus that held firm until a stress of 70 newtons per square millimeter, or 5 tons per square inch, was applied. After searching the literature, Brun and Tang concluded the secretion was the strongest natural glue known to science.

The adhesion of bacteria to surfaces is a necessary step in the infection of living cells, and the "biofouling" of submerged surfaces such as ship hulls. While C. crescentus is not infectious, the mechanisms it uses to adhere to surfaces are likely to be generalizable to bacteria that are. The scientists will use C. crescentus as a model to study the process and timing of adhesion, the genes, proteins and sugars involved, and what, exactly, tells wayward bacteria that a surface suitable for adhesion is nearby.

Seed funds from the Indiana METACyt Initiative and the Indiana University Faculty Research Support Program allowed Brun and Tang to obtain the preliminary data needed to compose a competitive N.I.H. grant proposal.

"Mechanism of Caulobacter adhesion," Grant # GM077648-01 (Nat. Inst. of General Medical Sciences)