Hydrophobins are extracellular proteins produced by filamentous fungi. They show a variety of functions at interfaces that help fungi to adapt to their environment by, for example, adhesion, formation of coatings, and lowering the surface tension of water. Hydrophobins fold into a globular structure and have a distinct hydrophobic patch on their surface that makes these proteins amphiphilic. Their amphiphilicity implies interfacial assembly, but observations indicate that intermolecular interactions also contribute to their functional properties. Here, we used the class II hydrophobin HFBI from Trichoderma reesei as a model to understand the structural basis for the function of hydrophobins. Four different variants were made in which charged residues were mutated. The residues were chosen to probe the role of different regions of the hydrophilic part of the proteins. Effects of the mutations were studied by analyzing the formation and structure of self-assembled layers, multimerization in solution, surface adhesion, binding of secondary layers of proteins on hydrophobins, and the viscoelastic behavior of the air–water interface during formation of protein films; the comparison showed clear differences between variants only in the last two analyses. Surface viscoelasticity behavior suggests that the formation of surface layers is regulated by specific interactions that lead to docking of proteins to each other. One set of mutations led to assemblies with a remarkably high elasticity at the air–water interface (1.44 N/m). The variation of binding of secondary layers of protein on surface-adsorbed hydrophobins suggest a mechanism for a proposed function of hydrophobins, namely, that hydrophobins can act as a specific adhesive layer for the binding of macromolecules to interfaces.
- interfaces materials