Working group 1

Learning from nature – structure-function relationships


  • to identify bonding organisms and provide insight into the adhesive structures and secretions
  • to determine physical properties in terms of adhesion strength, rheology, wetting capabilities
  • to develop a platform for sharing knowledge, procedures, specimen and instrument analyses


Task 1.1: Morphology/Structure

Adhesive systems possess complex hierarchical structures from the macro- to the nanometric scale. Their structural organization and synthesis is important for their function and structural composition. Therefore, broad comparative studies using e.g. different life science imaging techniques (i.e. SEM, AFM, Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope, Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy) will be carried out in order to understand essential structural principles behind their functions and determine changes during development.

Task 1.2: Composition/Profiling

The focus is (i) to identify and characterize structures of dry and wet adhesives chemically, (ii) to develop sample preparation and extraction procedures for wet adhesives, (iii) to discuss and adapt general chemical characterization approaches of the different glues including their biomolecular composition, amino acid/monosaccharide sequence and spectral features and (iv) to optimise the identification of the most abundant (glyco-) proteins and peptides. State-of-the-art technologies will include chromatography (i.e. High-performance liquid chromatography), biochemical techniques (i.e. SDS-Page Gel electrophoreses, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer/imaging) as well as molecular tools (i.e. de novo transcriptome/genome sequencing), which are available in the different labs of the ENBA participants.

Task 1.3: Properties/Performance

To understand the detailed function of biological adhesives, it is essential to observe the process of attachment and release with high spatial and temporal resolution, as well as to measure the adhesive performance under natural and standardised conditions. Relevant experimental approaches include force and contact area measurements, surface energy estimation, and roughness characterisation. The data on the mechanical performance of adhesives will be used to test theoretical models of adhesion, to prove possible correlations between different organisms and systems and to identify new principles or new combinations of principles that result in strong adhesion.

Working Group Coordinators

 Leader: Nicholas Aldred (Newcastle University, United Kingdom)

Vice-Leader: Claire Hellio (Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France)

Task 1.1 Leader

Sheelagh Conlan
Liverpool John Moores University
United Kingdom

Task 1.2 Leader

Claire Hellio
Université de Bretagne Occidentale

Task 1.3 Leader

Maria Tomoaia-Cotisel
Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca