HFBI and HFBII and some of their engineered variants at the air−water interface were measured by monitoring the accumulated mass at the interface via nondestructive ellipsometry measurements. The resulting mass vs time curves revealed unusual kinetics for a monolayer formation that did not follow a typical Langmuir-type of behavior but had a rather coverage-independent rate instead.
Typically, the full surface coverage was obtained at masses corresponding to a monolayer. The formation of multilayers was not observed. Atomic force microscopy revealed formation and growth of non-fusing protein clusters at the interface. The mechanism of the adsorption was studied by varying the structure or charges of the protein or the ionic strength of the subphase, revealing that the lateral interactions between the hydrophobins play a role in their interfacial assembly. Additionally, a theoretical model was introduced to identify the underlying mechanism of the unconventional adsorption kinetics.