Self-assembled hydrophobin protein films at the air-water interface: structural analysis and molecular engineering

Géza Szilvay, Arja Paananen, Katri Laurikainen, Elina Vuorimaa, Helge Lemmetyinen, Jouko Peltonen, Markus Linder

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    146 Citations (Scopus)


    Hydrophobins are amphiphilic proteins produced by filamentous fungi. They function in a variety of roles that involve interfacial interactions, as in growth through the air-water interface, adhesion to surfaces, and formation of coatings on various fungal structures. In this work, we have studied the formation of films of the class II hydrophobin HFBI from Trichoderma reesei at the air-water interface. Analysis of hydrophobin aqueous solution drops showed that a protein film is formed at the air-water interface. This elastic film was clearly visible, and it appeared to cause the drops to take unusual shapes. Because adhesion and formation of coatings are important biological functions for hydrophobins, a closer structural analysis of the film was made. The method involved picking up the surface film onto a solid substrate and imaging the surface by atomic force microscopy. High-resolution images were obtained showing both the hydrophilic and hydrophobic sides of the film at nanometer resolution. It was found that the hydrophobin film had a highly ordered structure. To study the orientation of molecules and to obtain further insight in film formation, we made variants of HFBI that could be site specifically conjugated. We then used the avidin-biotin interaction as a probe. On the basis of this work, we suggest that the unusual interfacial properties of this type of hydrophobins are due to specific molecular interactions which lead to an ordered network of proteins in the surface films that have a thickness of only one molecule. The interactions between the proteins in the network are likely to be responsible for the unusual surface elasticity of the hydrophobin film.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2345-2354
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • hydrophobins
    • filamentous fungi
    • Trichoderma reesei
    • coatings


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