Mussel inspired proteins have been demonstrated to serve as a versatile biologic adhesive with numerous applications. The present study illustrates the use of such Mussel inspired proteins (polydopamine) in the fabrication of functionalized bio-inspired nanomaterials capable of both improving cell response and sustained delivery of model probes. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis confirmed the ability of dopamine to polymerize on the surface of plasma-treated, electrospun poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) fiber mats to form polydopamine coating. Transmission electron microscopy images demonstrated that self-polymerization of dopamine was induced by pH shift and that the thickness of polydopamine coating was readily modulated by adjusting the concentration of dopamine and reaction time. Polydopamine coatings were noted to affect the mechanical properties of underlying fiber mats, as mechanical testing demonstrated a decrease in elasticity and increase in stiffness of polydopamine-coated fiber mats. Polydopamine coatings were also utilized to effectively immobilize extracellular matrix proteins (i.e., fibronectin) on the surface of polydopamine-coated, electrospun fibers, resulting in enhancement of NIH3T3 cell attachment, spreading, and cytoskeletal development. Comparison of release rates of rhodamine 6G encapsulated in coated and uncoated PCL fibers also confirmed that polydopamine coatings modulate the release rate of loaded payloads. The authors further demonstrate the significant difference of rhodamine 6G adsorption kinetics in water between PCL fibers and polydopamine-coated PCL fibers. Taken together, polydopamine-mediated surface modification to electrospun fibers may be an effective means of fabricating a wide range of bio-inspired nanomaterials with unique properties for use in tissue engineering, drug delivery, and advanced biomedical applications. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A:, 2012.