Waterproofin’ with Hydrophobin

Waterproofin’ with Hydrophobin

● Did you know that on average, there are between 1,000 and 10,000 fungal spores in every cubic meter of air? You breathe between 10 and 20 cubic meters of air every day, and every breath contains between 1 and 10 spores, of many different types. 

● These spores have a secret to staying dry and airborne: they are covered by a unique coat protein called hydrophobin, that repels water, but allows gases to exchange, like a botanical GORE-TEX. One side of the layer is water-loving, and the other is as repellent to water as Teflon or paraffin.

● Molecules of hydrophobin self-assemble to form a “rodlet” pictured in the inset, that has surprising similarity to amyloid fibrils found in plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. So not only could this protein lead to better design of nanoparticles (e.g., for drug delivery), but it may help understand a debilitating disease. 

Image: The fungus Emericella nidulans  (http://goo.gl/OivWNE) is covered by rodlets of the protein hydrophobin (inset; http://goo.gl/Ca1JZz ) which makes the spores waterproof.

REF (open access): Hydrophobins: unique fungal proteins Bayry et al. (2012)  http://goo.gl/gpzAbA

#ScienceEveryday  

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53 Responses to Waterproofin’ with Hydrophobin

  1. Rajini Rao says:


    There’s a fascinating intersection of biology and physics (biophysics) that should interest you Sagnik Sarkar .

  2. Chad Haney says:


    Sagnik Sarkar if you are more into applied sciences, there’s always bioengineering. Fantastic image and post Rajini Rao 

  3. Rajini Rao says:


    It’s telling that the fungal picture was posted on Flickr by BASF, the Chemical company. Their interest is in engineering surfactants. 


  4. I just woke up, Rajini Rao and thanks to you, Im already a little smarter! Thanks!

  5. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Chad Haney . I love the orange-y color in the picture. My postdoc lab worked with Neurospora crassa which is indeed orange. We pranked the tech once by placing an orange Cheeto in a test tube..it took him a while to figure out that it was not his favorite organism 🙂

  6. Stuti S A I says:


    Whoa! For a moment, (until I had read the explanation) I thought that this photo resembles some gems and jewelry ‘neatly’ arranged on some orange cloth!!!


    Ha! Ha! Ha! 


    Thanks, Ms. Rao for sharing this and other sci-facts. They are mind-blowing, even for a management/arts researcher like me! 🙂

  7. Rajini Rao says:


    Stuti S A I , it’s always the artistic aspect of an image that attracts me first, and the science inevitably follows. Love the imagery of gems and jewelry on orange fabric 🙂

  8. Chad Haney says:


    You’re such a trickster Rajini Rao. I think it’s good to remind people that SEM images are colorized, i.e., there is an artistic component. I once spent a ton of time on a surface rendered MRI image for a pub because I wanted the bone to look bone colored.

  9. Rajini Rao says:


    Thex Dar , I had no idea that Cheetos were grey! I found this fascinating clip from ABC news where taste was “colored” by perception from their eyes. We do eat with our eyes 🙂 http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/food-coloring-affect-perception-taste-13619727

  10. Rajini Rao says:


    Exactly the phrase we use when preparing images for scientific talks 🙂

  11. Chad Haney says:


    or pubs as I mentioned above. Actually we have a visualization group at work. As much as it bugs me, there is absolutely merit in using artists to dress up your figures for grants. I would like the science to stand on its own but in the real world, a fancy/flashy graphic can grab someones attention. That might tip the scale.


  12. Rajini Rao have you had the fortune of seeing this new product yet? http://youtu.be/3ayRImPvcQU

  13. Rajini Rao says:


    John Morrison , ah yes! Thanks for the link. It’s basically the superhydrophobic or lotus effect, and about fakir drops. Buddhini Samarasinghe had a post on it here http://goo.gl/0yAnbW and I talked about the different contact angles between lotus and petal effects here http://goo.gl/4cHeae .

  14. Brad Esau says:


    Rajini Rao , you post the most amazing and interesting stuff. 🙂

  15. Rajini Rao says:


    Brad Esau , lucky for me that nature produces some pretty interesting stuff 🙂


    Chad Haney , did I spell superhydrophobic right this time? 😉

  16. Brad Esau says:


    Rajini Rao – too true, too true. I’ve just been reading Bill Bryson’s A Brief History of Nearly Everything and have been getting my mind greatly expanded on the mysteries and beauties of the nature all around us.

  17. Rajini Rao says:


    It’s had great reviews, Brad Esau and I think it won an award. I’m guessing that you recommend the book?

  18. Brad Esau says:


    Rajini Rao – I do! Not for folks of your level, though, but for for most of us it’s a great primer for what the world and life is all about. Well, heck, even you might get some neat stuff of interest from it!


  19. Brad Esau, love that book. Rajini Rao, I think you’d get a kick out of his style. Here’s a link to a working ebook if you’re at all interested: http://goo.gl/AJsMxL

  20. Rajini Rao says:


    Thank you both..I know what I’m going to be reading tonight 🙂

  21. Brad Esau says:


    John Morrison – glad to see another thumbs up! Yeah, his style is great. I’m learning all this super cool stuff about science and nature while at the same time occasionally guffawing out loud.

  22. Chad Haney says:


    This post reminds me of my green latex post. http://goo.gl/7LYQhx


  23. Terrific “new to me” concepts. TY again. I am all for colorizing to make understanding easier and also to focus attention. So much the better if “beautiful”.

  24. Rajini Rao says:


    BJ Bolender , the photographer in you appreciates beautiful images, I’m sure. 


    The “good” Parthenium, thanks for the link Chad Haney .

  25. Rajini Rao says:


    No, I’ve not, Rashid Moore . Will look for the Kindle version 🙂

  26. Chad Haney says:


    Always good for a chuckle Thex Dar 

  27. Russ Abbott says:


    It’s amazing what you can see if you look.


    –Yogi Berra.

  28. Rajini Rao says:


    Drew Sowersby , and evade the immune system too!

  29. Matt Kuenzel says:


    Puzzling! It’s that easy to evade the immune system — just coat yourself with wax? How can the host tolerate it? 

  30. Rajini Rao says:


    Matt Kuenzel , it just means that the surface protein is not immune reactive. That’s a good thing, or we would all be walking around with severe allergies. When the spores germinate, the layer breaks down and is susceptible to immunological attack. Here is a quick read (different protein, same principle) : http://aspergillusblog.blogspot.com/2009/09/clever-cloak-prevents-immune.html

  31. Andy Pittman says:


    I personally think we NEED more exposure, so our immune system can evolve, with the bacteria and viruses, and the fungus among us, lol. That’s why baby’s put their hands in their mouth, to instinctively immerse themselves into their new environment. With antibiotics and  sanitizers, especially, we have imbalanced our immune systems AWAY from the natural balance. Just my thoughts…..

  32. Rajini Rao says:


    Andy Pittman , sure. There is plenty of evidence in the literature that supports your ideas. However, an overactive immune system comes with its own set of problems: autoimmune diseases and allergies. 

  33. Matt Kuenzel says:


    Rajini Rao I see, that’s interesting. Thanks!

  34. Rao Raj says:


    Very informative. Any idea what the molecular structure of the protein?

  35. Rajini Rao says:


    Rao Raj , the structure has been solved. The inset (in blue) shows an assembled polymer. 

  36. Don Stoddard says:


    couldnt this be manipulated to be very benificail to humans suffreing from HIv or other imunity disoders?


  37. the “picket fence” (? your rodlet?) in the inset reminds me of another waterproofing barrier (membrane) – the phospholipid bi-layer. p.s.- please forgive my elementary, “non-degreed” comments/input… I just really dig science! 8)

  38. Cynthia Bush says:


    Thank you for the honor of joining your circle.


    You are so brilliant, I had to put you in 4 of my favorite circles!


    Cynthia ♡♡♡ (my symbol)


  39. Rajini Rao but there must be a point where they take their hydrophobin uniform off & let the water in, no?  to grow, they will need moisture at some point, no?


    wonderful post & photo!

  40. Rajini Rao says:


    Hiya, nomad dimitri . That was a perceptive observation! It turns out than only the aerial structures are coated with these rainproof mackintoshes 🙂 The hyphae (long strands) that are in the substrate are not coated and have access to moisture. Also, when the spores germinate, the coat cracks open to let the hyphal tube emerge. 

  41. Cynthia Bush says:


    Rajini, the post that lives on…


    •~♡

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