Send to

Choose Destination
J Mol Biol. 2010 Nov 26;404(2):328-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2010.09.054. Epub 2010 Sep 29.

A pH-dependent dimer lock in spider silk protein.

Author information

Division of Chemistry I, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.


Spider dragline silk, one of the strongest polymers in nature, is composed of proteins termed major ampullate spidroin (MaSp) 1 and MaSp2. The N-terminal (NT) domain of MaSp1 produced by the nursery web spider Euprosthenops australis acts as a pH-sensitive relay, mediating spidroin assembly at around pH 6.3. Using amide hydrogen/deuterium exchange combined with mass spectrometry (MS), we detected pH-dependent changes in deuterium incorporation into the core of the NT domain, indicating global structural stabilization at low pH. The stabilizing effects were diminished or abolished at high ionic strength, or when the surface-exposed residues Asp40 and Glu84 had been exchanged with the corresponding amides. Nondenaturing electrospray ionization MS revealed the presence of dimers in the gas phase at pH values below--but not above--6.4, indicating a tight electrostatic association that is dependent on Asp40 and Glu84 at low pH. Results from analytical ultracentrifugation support these findings. Together, the data suggest a mechanism whereby lowering the pH to <6.4 results in structural changes and alteration of charge-mediated interactions between subunits, thereby locking the spidroin NT dimer into a tight entity important for aggregation and silk formation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center