Interfacial Self-Assembly of a Fungal Hydrophobin into a Hydrophobic Rodlet Layer

HAB. Wosten, JGH. Wessels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Sc3p hydrophobin of the basidiomycete Schizophyllum commune is a small hydrophobic protein (100 to 101 amino acids) containing eight cysteine residues. Large amounts of the protein are excreted into the culture medium as monomers, but in the walls of aerial hyphae, the protein is present as an SDS-insoluble complex. In this study, we show that the Sc3p hydrophobin spontaneously assembles into an SDS-insoluble protein membrane on the surface of gas bubbles or when dried down on a hydrophilic surface. Electron microscopy of the assembled hydrophobin shows a surface consisting of rodlets spaced 10 nm apart, which is similar to those rodlets seen on the surface of aerial hyphae. When the purified Sc3p hydrophobin assembles on a hydrophilic surface, a surface is exposed with high hydrophobicity, similar to that of aerial hyphae. The rodlet layer, assembled in vivo and in vitro, can be disassembled by dissolution in trifluoroacetic acid and, after removal of the acid, reassembled into a rodlet layer. We propose, therefore, that the hydrophobic rodlet layer on aerial hyphae arises by interfacial self-assembly of Sc3p hydrophobin monomers, involving noncovalent interactions only. Submerged hyphae merely excrete monomers because these hyphae are not exposed to a water-air interface. The generally observed rodlet layers on fungal spores may arise in a similar way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1567-1574
Number of pages8
JournalThe Plant Cell
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1993


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