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Prion. 2008 Oct-Dec;2(4):154-61. Epub 2008 Oct 20.

The elaborate structure of spider silk: structure and function of a natural high performance fiber.

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Universität Bayreuth, Fakultät für angew. Naturwissenschaften, Lehrstuhl für Biomaterialien, Bayreuth, Germany.


Biomaterials, having evolved over millions of years, often exceed man-made materials in their properties. Spider silk is one outstanding fibrous biomaterial which consists almost entirely of large proteins. Silk fibers have tensile strengths comparable to steel and some silks are nearly as elastic as rubber on a weight to weight basis. In combining these two properties, silks reveal a toughness that is two to three times that of synthetic fibers like Nylon or Kevlar. Spider silk is also antimicrobial, hypoallergenic and completely biodegradable. This article focuses on the structure-function relationship of the characterized highly repetitive spider silk spidroins and their conformational conversion from solution into fibers. Such knowedge is of crucial importance to understanding the intrinsic properties of spider silk and to get insight into the sophisticated assembly processes of silk proteins. This review further outlines recent progress in recombinant production of spider silk proteins and their assembly into distinct polymer materials as a basis for novel products.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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