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Biomacromolecules. 2007 Aug;8(8):2342-4. Epub 2007 Jul 21.

In situ conformation of spider silk proteins in the intact major ampullate gland and in solution.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Department of Biology, and Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Université Laval, Québec (Québec) G1K 7P4 Canada.


To understand the spinning process of dragline silk by spiders, the protein conformation before spinning has to be determined. Raman confocal spectromicroscopy has been used to study the conformation of the proteins in situ in the intact abdominal major ampullate gland of Nephila clavipes and Araneus diadematus spiders. The spectra obtained are typical of natively unfolded proteins and are very similar to that of a mixture of recombinant silk proteins. Vibrational circular dichroism reveals that the conformation is composed of random and polyproline II (PPII) segments with some alpha-helices. The alpha-helices seem to be located in the C-terminal part whereas the repetitive sequence is unfolded. The PPII structure can significantly contribute to the efficiency of the spinning process in nature.

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