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Evidence that gecko setae are coated with an ordered nanometre-thin lipid film

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  • Mette H. Rasmussen
  • Katinka Rønnow Holler
  • ,
  • Joe E. Baio, Oregon State University
  • ,
  • Cherno Jaye, National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • ,
  • Daniel A. Fischer, National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • ,
  • Stanislav N. Gorb, Kiel University
  • ,
  • Tobias Weidner

The fascinating adhesion of gecko to virtually any material has been related to surface interactions of myriads of spatula at the tips of gecko feet. Surprisingly, the molecular details of the surface chemistry of gecko adhesion are still largely unknown. Lipids have been identified within gecko adhesive pads. However, the location of the lipids, the extent to which spatula are coated with lipids, and how the lipids are structured are still open questions. Lipids can modulate adhesion properties and surface hydrophobicity and may play an important role in adhesion. We have therefore studied the molecular structure of lipids at spatula surfaces using near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure imaging. We provide evidence that a nanometre-thin layer of lipids is present at the spatula surfaces of the tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) and that the lipids form ordered, densely packed layers. Such dense, thin lipid layers can effectively protect the spatula proteins from dehydration by forming a barrier against water evaporation. Lipids can also render surfaces hydrophobic and thereby support the gecko adhesive system by enhancement of hydrophobic-hydrophobic interactions with surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220093
JournalBiology Letters
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • adhesion, biotribology, integument, reptiles, spectro-microscopy, toe pad

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