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Thermomechanical Properties of Squid Sucker Proteins

Squids have teethed structures inside their suckers that they use to latch on their prey. These teeth are made of structural proteins that form a reversibly crosslinked network with outstanding mechanical properties.

In Helft, et al., Integrative and Comparative Biology (2024), the team investigated changes in nano/microstructure and mechanical properties with temperature, revealing a reversible softening due to a glass transition at mild temperatures (35 °C). This thermomechanical transition relies in dense hydrogen-bonding interactions that stabilize the protein network, and provide mechanical and self-healing properties that surpass many synthetic polymers.

Understanding the structure-property relationships that govern this biological material will guide the molecular design of dynamic polymer networks in IRG2 with reversible thermomechanical properties and crosslinking mechanisms.

This project has been co-authored by 2 undergraduate students and 2 PhD students in MSE, MACRO, and Biophysics at UM.