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Biophys J. 1996 Jan;70(1):489-93.

Presence of phosphorus in Nephila clavipes dragline silk.

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Center for Advanced Technology in Biotechnology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Solid-state 31P-NMR of Nephila clavipes dragline silk indicates the presence of phosphorus in at least two chemically distinct environments. Amino acid analyses of acid-hydrolyzed silk confirm the presence of phosphotyrosine as one of the phosphorus-containing components. The unusual chemical shift (18.9 ppm downfield from 85% H3PO4), proton chemical shift, and acid lability of a second component suggest that it is part of a strained five-membered cyclic phosphate that might be found on a beta-D-ribose. The five-membered cyclic phosphate is not removed from the silk fibers by exhaustive aqueous extraction. It is absent in nascent silk fibroin from the glands, suggesting that its formation is part of the fiber processing that occurs in the ducts leading to the spinnerets. High-resolution NMR spectra of silk dissolved in propionic acid/12 N HCl (50:50 v/v) show five phosphorus sites assigned to phosphorylated tyrosine residues, phosphorylated serine residues, inorganic phosphate, and two hydrolysis products of the cyclic phosphate compound. The observed posttranslational phosphorylation may be important in the processing and modulation of the physical properties of dragline silk.

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