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Structure of Keratins in Adhesive Gecko Setae Determined by Near-Edge X‑ray Absorption Fine Structure Spectromicroscopy

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Katinka Rønnow Holler
  • ,
  • Mette Heidemann Rasmussen
  • 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

Geckos have the astonishing ability to climb on vertical surfaces due to the adhesive properties of fibrous setae at the tips of their toe pads. While the adhesion mechanism principle, based on van der Waals interactions of myriads of spatula located at the outermost end of the setal arrays, has been studied extensively, there are still open questions about the chemistry of gecko setae. The gecko adhesive system is based on keratin fibrils assembled to support the entire setal structure. At the same time, the structure and alignment of keratin molecules within the ultrafine spatula tissue, which can support the enormous mechanical strain, still remain unknown. We have studied the molecular structure of gecko spatula using near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) imaging. We indeed found that the setae consist of a β-sheet structure aligned with the adhesion direction of the setae. Such alignment may provide mechanical stability to the setae and resistance to wear across different length scales.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters
Pages (from-to)2193-2196
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

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