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Biomacromolecules. 2012 Feb 13;13(2):379-86. doi: 10.1021/bm201404x. Epub 2012 Jan 6.

Molecular orientation of tropoelastin is determined by surface hydrophobicity.

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  • 1Bragg Institute , Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Locked Bag 2001, Kirrawee DC, NSW 2232, Australia.


Tropoelastin is the precursor of the extracellular protein elastin and is utilized in tissue engineering and implant technology by adapting the interface presented by surface-bound tropoelastin. The preferred orientation of the surface bound protein is relevant to biointerface interactions, as the C-terminus of tropoelastin is known to be a binding target for cells. Using recombinant human tropoelastin we monitored the binding of tropoelastin on hydrophilic silica and on silica made hydrophobic by depositing a self-assembled monolayer of octadecyl trichlorosilane. The layered organization of deposited tropoelastin was probed using neutron and X-ray reflectometry under aqueous and dried conditions. In a wet environment, tropoelastin retained a solution-like structure when adsorbed on silica but adopted a brush-like structure when on hydrophobized silica. The orientation of the surface-bound tropoelastin was investigated using cell binding assays and it was found that the C-terminus of tropoelastin faced the bulk solvent when bound to the hydrophobic surface, but a mixture of orientations was adopted when tropoelastin was bound to the hydrophilic surface. Drying the tropoelastin-coated surfaces irreversibly altered these protein structures for both hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces.

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