• adhesion;
  • adhesives;
  • atomic force microscopy;
  • diatoms;
  • scanning electron microscopy

We investigated the adhesive mucilage and mechanism of cell-substratum adhesion of two benthic raphid diatoms, the marine species Craspedostauros australis E. J. Cox and the freshwater species Pinnularia viridis (Nitzsch) Ehrenberg. SEM images of P. viridis and C. australis cells revealed the presence of multistranded tethers that appear to arise along the raphe openings and extend for a considerable distance from the cell before forming a “holdfast-like” attachment with the substratum. We propose that the tethers result from the elongation/stretching of composite adhesive mucilage strands secreted from raphes during the onset of cell adhesion and reorientation. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) force measurements reveal that the adhesive strands originating from the nondriving raphe of live C. australis and P. viridis are highly extensible and accumulate to form tethers. During force measurements tethers can be chemically stained and are seen to extend between the cantilever tip and a cell during elongation and relaxation. In most cases, AFM force measurements recorded an interaction with a number of adhesive strands that are secreted from the raphe. The force curves of C. australis and P. viridis revealed a sawtooth pattern, suggesting the successive unbinding of modular domains when the adhesive strands were placed under stress. In addition, we applied the “fly-fishing” technique that allowed the cantilever, suspended a distance above the cell, to interact with single adhesive strands protruding from the raphe. These force curves revealed sawtooth patterns, although the binding forces recorded were in the range for single molecule interactions.