American Chemical Society
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Silk Reconstitution Disrupts Fibroin Self-Assembly

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journal contribution
posted on 2015-09-14, 00:00 authored by Sean R. Koebley, Daniel Thorpe, Pei Pang, Panos Chrisochoides, Imke Greving, Fritz Vollrath, Hannes C. Schniepp
Using atomic force microscopy, we present the first molecular-scale comparison of two of the most important silk dopes, native (NSF) and reconstituted (RSF) silkworm fibroin. We found that both systems depended on shear to show self-assembly. Significant differences in the nature of self-assembly between NSF and RSF were shown. In the highest studied concentration of 1000 mg/L, NSF exhibited assembly into 20–30 nm-wide nanofibrils closely resembling the surface structures found in natural silk fibers. RSF, in contrast, showed no self-assembly whatsoever at the same concentration, which suggests that the reconstitution process significantly disrupts silk’s inherent self-assembly capability. At lower concentrations, both RSF and NSF formed fibrils under shear, apparently denatured by the substrate. Using image analysis, we quantified the properties of these self-assembled fibrils as a function of concentration and found low-concentration fibrils of NSF to form larger continuous structures than those of RSF, further supporting NSF’s superior self-assembly capabilities.