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Biomacromolecules. 2012 Mar 12;13(3):683-90. doi: 10.1021/bm201555c. Epub 2012 Feb 3.

Bioinspired silicification of silica-binding peptide-silk protein chimeras: comparison of chemically and genetically produced proteins.

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Biomolecular and Materials Interface Research Group, School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University, Clifton lane, Nottingham NG11 8NS, United Kingdom.


Novel protein chimeras constituted of "silk" and a silica-binding peptide (KSLSRHDHIHHH) were synthesized by genetic or chemical approaches and their influence on silica-silk based chimera composite formation evaluated. Genetic chimeras were constructed from 6 or 15 repeats of the 32 amino acid consensus sequence of Nephila clavipes spider silk ([SGRGGLGGQG AGAAAAAGGA GQGGYGGLGSQG](n)) to which one silica binding peptide was fused at the N terminus. For the chemical chimera, 28 equiv of the silica binding peptide were chemically coupled to natural Bombyx mori silk after modification of tyrosine groups by diazonium coupling and EDC/NHS activation of all acid groups. After silica formation under mild, biomaterial-compatible conditions, the effect of peptide addition on the properties of the silk and chimeric silk-silica composite materials was explored. The composite biomaterial properties could be related to the extent of silica condensation and to the higher number of silica binding sites in the chemical chimera as compared with the genetically derived variants. In all cases, the structure of the protein/chimera in solution dictated the type of composite structure that formed with the silica deposition process having little effect on the secondary structural composition of the silk-based materials. Similarly to our study of genetic silk based chimeras containing the R5 peptide (SSKKSGSYSGSKGSKRRIL), the role of the chimeras (genetic and chemical) used in the present study resided more in aggregation and scaffolding than in the catalysis of condensation. The variables of peptide identity, silk construct (number of consensus repeats or silk source), and approach to synthesis (genetic or chemical) can be used to "tune" the properties of the composite materials formed and is a general approach that can be used to prepare a range of materials for biomedical and sensor-based applications.

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