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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 May 6;105(18):6590-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0709246105. Epub 2008 Apr 29.

Assembly mechanism of recombinant spider silk proteins.

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  • 1E27-Biophysics, Physics Department, James Franck Strasse, Technische Universität München, 85747 Garching, Germany.


Spider silk threads are formed by the irreversible aggregation of silk proteins in a spinning duct with dimensions of only a few micrometers. Here, we present a microfluidic device in which engineered and recombinantly produced spider dragline silk proteins eADF3 (engineered Araneus diadematus fibroin) and eADF4 are assembled into fibers. Our approach allows the direct observation and identification of the essential parameters of dragline silk assembly. Changes in ionic conditions and pH result in aggregation of the two proteins. Assembly of eADF3 fibers was induced only in the presence of an elongational flow component. Strikingly, eADF4 formed fibers only in combination with eADF3. On the basis of these results, we propose a model for dragline silk aggregation and early steps of fiber assembly in the microscopic regime.

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