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Self-Assembled Coacervates of Chitosan and an Insect Cuticle Protein Containing a Rebers–Riddiford Motif

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journal contribution
posted on 26.04.2018, 00:00 by M. Coleman Vaclaw, Patricia A. Sprouse, Neal T. Dittmer, Saba Ghazvini, C. Russell Middaugh, Michael R. Kanost, Stevin H. Gehrke, Prajnaparamita Dhar
The interactions among biomacromolecules within insect cuticle may offer new motifs for biomimetic material design. CPR27 is an abundant protein in the rigid cuticle of the elytron from Tribolium castaneum. CPR27 contains the Rebers–Riddiford (RR) motif, which is hypothesized to bind chitin. In this study, active magnetic microrheology coupled with microscopy and protein particle analysis techniques were used to correlate alterations in the viscosity of chitosan solutions with changes in solution microstructure. Addition of CPR27 to chitosan solutions led to a 3-fold drop in viscosity. This change was accompanied by the presence of micrometer-sized coacervate particles in solution. Coacervate formation had a strong dependence on chitosan concentration. Analysis showed the existence of a critical CPR27 concentration beyond which a significant increase in particle count was observed. These effects were not observed when a non-RR cuticular protein, CP30, was tested, providing evidence of a structure–function relationship related to the RR motif.