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Special Issue "Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Materials Science".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2016).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. John G. Hardy
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Chemistry and Materials Science Institute, Faraday Building, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YB, UK
Interests: bioelectronics, electricity, light, magnetism, stimuli-responsive materials, silk, drug delivery, neuromodulation, tissue engineering
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Chris Holland
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
The University of Sheffield
Interests: silks; biomaterials; rheology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Nature employs a combination of triggers (e.g., chemical, mechanical) to create silk protein-based biomaterials with remarkable properties. The same proteins can be employed for the generation of novel materials with similar or perhaps even greater utility. In this Special Issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, devoted to “Silk-based materials: from production to characterization”, we warmly invite submissions related to the underlying mechanisms of natural silk material production and the characterization of such materials.

Dr. John George Hardy
Dr. Chris Holland
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • silk
  • protein
  • protein folding
  • characterization
  • mechanical properties

Published Papers (23 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Secondary Structure Adopted by the Gly-Gly-X Repetitive Regions of Dragline Spider Silk
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(12), 2023; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17122023 - 02 Dec 2016
Cited by 11
Abstract
Solid-state NMR and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are presented to help elucidate the molecular secondary structure of poly(Gly-Gly-X), which is one of the most common structural repetitive motifs found in orb-weaving dragline spider silk proteins. The combination of NMR and computational experiments provides [...] Read more.
Solid-state NMR and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are presented to help elucidate the molecular secondary structure of poly(Gly-Gly-X), which is one of the most common structural repetitive motifs found in orb-weaving dragline spider silk proteins. The combination of NMR and computational experiments provides insight into the molecular secondary structure of poly(Gly-Gly-X) segments and provides further support that these regions are disordered and primarily non-β-sheet. Furthermore, the combination of NMR and MD simulations illustrate the possibility for several secondary structural elements in the poly(Gly-Gly-X) regions of dragline silks, including β-turns, 310-helicies, and coil structures with a negligible population of α-helix observed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Natural Non-Mulberry Silk Nanoparticles for Potential-Controlled Drug Release
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(12), 2012; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17122012 - 01 Dec 2016
Cited by 7
Abstract
Natural silk protein nanoparticles are a promising biomaterial for drug delivery due to their pleiotropic properties, including biocompatibility, high bioavailability, and biodegradability. Chinese oak tasar Antheraea pernyi silk fibroin (ApF) nanoparticles are easily obtained using cations as reagents under mild conditions. [...] Read more.
Natural silk protein nanoparticles are a promising biomaterial for drug delivery due to their pleiotropic properties, including biocompatibility, high bioavailability, and biodegradability. Chinese oak tasar Antheraea pernyi silk fibroin (ApF) nanoparticles are easily obtained using cations as reagents under mild conditions. The mild conditions are potentially advantageous for the encapsulation of sensitive drugs and therapeutic molecules. In the present study, silk fibroin protein nanoparticles are loaded with differently-charged small-molecule drugs, such as doxorubicin hydrochloride, ibuprofen, and ibuprofen-Na, by simple absorption based on electrostatic interactions. The structure, morphology and biocompatibility of the silk nanoparticles in vitro are investigated. In vitro release of the drugs from the nanoparticles depends on charge-charge interactions between the drugs and the nanoparticles. The release behavior of the compounds from the nanoparticles demonstrates that positively-charged molecules are released in a more prolonged or sustained manner. Cell viability studies with L929 demonstrated that the ApF nanoparticles significantly promoted cell growth. The results suggest that Chinese oak tasar Antheraea pernyi silk fibroin nanoparticles can be used as an alternative matrix for drug carrying and controlled release in diverse biomedical applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessCommunication
Importance of Heat and Pressure for Solubilization of Recombinant Spider Silk Proteins in Aqueous Solution
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(11), 1955; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17111955 - 23 Nov 2016
Cited by 4
Abstract
The production of recombinant spider silk proteins continues to be a key area of interest for a number of research groups. Several key obstacles exist in their production as well as in their formulation into useable products. The original reported method to solubilize [...] Read more.
The production of recombinant spider silk proteins continues to be a key area of interest for a number of research groups. Several key obstacles exist in their production as well as in their formulation into useable products. The original reported method to solubilize recombinant spider silk proteins (rSSp) in an aqueous solution involved using microwaves to quickly generate heat and pressure inside of a sealed vial containing rSSp and water. Fibers produced from this system are remarkable in their mechanical ability and demonstrate the ability to be stretched and recover 100 times. The microwave method dissolves the rSSPs with dissolution time increasing with higher molecular weight constructs, increasing concentration of rSSPs, protein type, and salt concentration. It has proven successful in solvating a number of different rSSPs including native-like sequences (MaSp1, MaSp2, piriform, and aggregate) as well as chimeric sequences (FlAS) in varied concentrations that have been spun into fibers and formed into films, foams, sponges, gels, coatings, macro and micro spheres and adhesives. The system is effective but inherently unpredictable and difficult to control. Provided that the materials that can be generated from this method of dissolution are impressive, an alternative means of applying heat and pressure that is controllable and predictable has been developed. Results indicate that there are combinations of heat and pressure (135 °C and 140 psi) that result in maximal dissolution without degrading the recombinant MaSp2 protein tested, and that heat and pressure are the key elements to the method of dissolution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Fabrication and Optimization of Stable, Optically Transparent, and Reusable pH-Responsive Silk Membranes
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(11), 1897; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17111897 - 15 Nov 2016
Abstract
The fabrication of silk-based membranes that are stable, optically transparent and reusable is yet to be achieved. To address this bottleneck we have developed a method to produce transparent chromogenic silk patches that are optically responsive to pH. The patches were produced by [...] Read more.
The fabrication of silk-based membranes that are stable, optically transparent and reusable is yet to be achieved. To address this bottleneck we have developed a method to produce transparent chromogenic silk patches that are optically responsive to pH. The patches were produced by blending regenerated silk fibroin (RSF), Laponite® RD (nano clay) and the organic dyes neutral red and Thionine acetate. The Laponite® RD played a central role in the patch mechanical integrity and prevention of dye leaching. The process was optimized using a factorial design to maximize the patch response to pH by UV absorbance and fluorescence emission. New patches of the optimized protocol, made from solutions containing 125 μM neutral red or 250 μM of Thionine and 15 mg/mL silk, were further tested for operational stability over several cycles of pH altering. Stability, performance, and reusability were achieved over the tested cycles. The approach could be extended to other reporting molecules or enzymes able to bind to Laponite®. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
The Rheology behind Stress-Induced Solidification in Native Silk Feedstocks
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(11), 1812; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17111812 - 29 Oct 2016
Cited by 12
Abstract
The mechanism by which native silk feedstocks are converted to solid fibres in nature has attracted much interest. To address this question, the present work used rheology to investigate the gelation of Bombyx mori native silk feedstock. Exceeding a critical shear stress appeared [...] Read more.
The mechanism by which native silk feedstocks are converted to solid fibres in nature has attracted much interest. To address this question, the present work used rheology to investigate the gelation of Bombyx mori native silk feedstock. Exceeding a critical shear stress appeared to be more important than shear rate, during flow-induced initiation. Compositional changes (salts, pH etc.,) were not required, although their possible role in vivo is not excluded. Moreover, after successful initiation, gel strength continued to increase over a considerable time under effectively quiescent conditions, without requiring further application of the initial stimulus. Gelation by elevated temperature or freezing was also observed. Prior to gelation, literature suggests that silk protein adopts a random coil configuration, which argued against the conventional explanation of gelation, based on hydrophilic and hydrophobic interactions. Instead, a new hypothesis is presented, based on entropically-driven loss of hydration, which appears to explain the apparently diverse methods by which silk feedstocks can be gelled. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Gelation Behaviors and Mechanism of Silk Fibroin According to the Addition of Nitrate Salts
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(10), 1697; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17101697 - 10 Oct 2016
Cited by 7
Abstract
Silk fibroin (SF) is a typical fibrous protein that is secreted by silkworms and spiders. It has been used in a variety of areas, and especially for tissue-engineering scaffolds, due to its sound processability, mechanical properties, biodegradability, and biocompatibility. With respect to gelation, [...] Read more.
Silk fibroin (SF) is a typical fibrous protein that is secreted by silkworms and spiders. It has been used in a variety of areas, and especially for tissue-engineering scaffolds, due to its sound processability, mechanical properties, biodegradability, and biocompatibility. With respect to gelation, the SF gelation time is long in aqueous solutions, so a novel approach is needed to shorten this time. The solubility of regenerated SF is sound in formic acid (FA), which is a carboxylic acid of the simplest structure. In this study, SF was dissolved in formic acid, and the addition of salts then induced a rapid gelation that accompanied a solution-color change. Based on the gelation behaviors of the SF solution according to different SF and salt concentrations, the gelation mechanism was investigated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Low-Tech, Pilot Scale Purification of a Recombinant Spider Silk Protein Analog from Tobacco Leaves
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(10), 1687; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17101687 - 09 Oct 2016
Abstract
Spider dragline is used by many members of the Araneae family not only as a proteinogenic safety thread but also for web construction. Spider dragline has been shown to possess high tensile strength in combination with elastic behavior. This high tensile strength can [...] Read more.
Spider dragline is used by many members of the Araneae family not only as a proteinogenic safety thread but also for web construction. Spider dragline has been shown to possess high tensile strength in combination with elastic behavior. This high tensile strength can be attributed to the presence of antiparallel β-sheets within the thread; these antiparallel β-sheets are why the protein is classified as a silk. Due to the properties of spider silk and its technical and medical uses, including its use as a suture material and as a scaffold for tissue regeneration, spider dragline is a focus of the biotechnology industry. The production of sufficient amounts of spider silk is challenging, as it is difficult to produce large quantities of fibers because of the cannibalistic behavior of spiders and their large spatial requirements. In recent years, the heterologous expression of genes coding for spider silk analogs in various hosts, including plants such as Nicotiana tabacum, has been established. We developed a simple and scalable method for the purification of a recombinant spider silk protein elastin-like peptide fusion protein (Q-/K-MaSp1-100× ELP) after heterologous production in tobacco leaves involving heat and acetone precipitation. Further purification was performed using centrifugal Inverse Transition Cycling (cITC). Up to 400 mg of highly pure spider silk protein derivatives can be isolated from six kilograms of tobacco leaves, which is the highest amount of silk protein derivatives purified from plants thus far. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Fabrication and Mechanical Characterization of Hydrogel Infused Network Silk Scaffolds
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(10), 1631; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17101631 - 26 Sep 2016
Cited by 4
Abstract
Development and characterization of porous scaffolds for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine is of great importance. In recent times, silk scaffolds were developed and successfully tested in tissue engineering and drug release applications. We developed a novel composite scaffold by mechanical infusion of [...] Read more.
Development and characterization of porous scaffolds for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine is of great importance. In recent times, silk scaffolds were developed and successfully tested in tissue engineering and drug release applications. We developed a novel composite scaffold by mechanical infusion of silk hydrogel matrix into a highly porous network silk scaffold. The mechanical behaviour of these scaffolds was thoroughly examined for their possible use in load bearing applications. Firstly, unconfined compression experiments show that the denser composite scaffolds displayed significant enhancement in the elastic modulus as compared to either of the components. This effect was examined and further explained with the help of foam mechanics principles. Secondly, results from confined compression experiments that resemble loading of cartilage in confinement, showed nonlinear material responses for all scaffolds. Finally, the confined creep experiments were performed to calculate the hydraulic permeability of the scaffolds using soil mechanics principles. Our results show that composite scaffolds with some modifications can be a potential candidate for use of cartilage like applications. We hope such approaches help in developing novel scaffolds for tissue engineering by providing an understanding of the mechanics and can further be used to develop graded scaffolds by targeted infusion in specific regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Spider Silk-CBD-Cellulose Nanocrystal Composites: Mechanism of Assembly
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(9), 1573; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17091573 - 18 Sep 2016
Cited by 5
Abstract
The fabrication of cellulose-spider silk bio-nanocomposites comprised of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and recombinant spider silk protein fused to a cellulose binding domain (CBD) is described. Silk-CBD successfully binds cellulose, and unlike recombinant silk alone, silk-CBD self-assembles into microfibrils even in the absence of [...] Read more.
The fabrication of cellulose-spider silk bio-nanocomposites comprised of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and recombinant spider silk protein fused to a cellulose binding domain (CBD) is described. Silk-CBD successfully binds cellulose, and unlike recombinant silk alone, silk-CBD self-assembles into microfibrils even in the absence of CNCs. Silk-CBD-CNC composite sponges and films show changes in internal structure and CNC alignment related to the addition of silk-CBD. The silk-CBD sponges exhibit improved thermal and structural characteristics in comparison to control recombinant spider silk sponges. The glass transition temperature (Tg) of the silk-CBD sponge was higher than the control silk sponge and similar to native dragline spider silk fibers. Gel filtration analysis, dynamic light scattering (DLS), small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and cryo-transmission electron microscopy (TEM) indicated that silk-CBD, but not the recombinant silk control, formed a nematic liquid crystalline phase similar to that observed in native spider silk during the silk spinning process. Silk-CBD microfibrils spontaneously formed in solution upon ultrasonication. We suggest a model for silk-CBD assembly that implicates CBD in the central role of driving the dimerization of spider silk monomers, a process essential to the molecular assembly of spider-silk nanofibers and silk-CNC composites. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Comprehensive Proteomic Analysis of Spider Dragline Silk from Black Widows: A Recipe to Build Synthetic Silk Fibers
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(9), 1537; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17091537 - 13 Sep 2016
Cited by 6
Abstract
The outstanding material properties of spider dragline silk fibers have been attributed to two spidroins, major ampullate spidroins 1 and 2 (MaSp1 and MaSp2). Although dragline silk fibers have been treated with different chemical solvents to elucidate the relationship between protein structure and [...] Read more.
The outstanding material properties of spider dragline silk fibers have been attributed to two spidroins, major ampullate spidroins 1 and 2 (MaSp1 and MaSp2). Although dragline silk fibers have been treated with different chemical solvents to elucidate the relationship between protein structure and fiber mechanics, there has not been a comprehensive proteomic analysis of the major ampullate (MA) gland, its spinning dope, and dragline silk using a wide range of chaotropic agents, inorganic salts, and fluorinated alcohols to elucidate their complete molecular constituents. In these studies, we perform in-solution tryptic digestions of solubilized MA glands, spinning dope and dragline silk fibers using five different solvents, followed by nano liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) analysis with an Orbitrap Fusion™ Tribrid™. To improve protein identification, we employed three different tryptic peptide fragmentation modes, which included collision-induced dissociation (CID), electron transfer dissociation (ETD), and high energy collision dissociation (HCD) to discover proteins involved in the silk assembly pathway and silk fiber. In addition to MaSp1 and MaSp2, we confirmed the presence of a third spidroin, aciniform spidroin 1 (AcSp1), widely recognized as the major constituent of wrapping silk, as a product of dragline silk. Our findings also reveal that MA glands, spinning dope, and dragline silk contain at least seven common proteins: three members of the Cysteine-Rich Protein Family (CRP1, CRP2 and CRP4), cysteine-rich secretory protein 3 (CRISP3), fasciclin and two uncharacterized proteins. In summary, this study provides a proteomic blueprint to construct synthetic silk fibers that most closely mimic natural fibers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Glycerin-Induced Conformational Changes in Bombyx mori Silk Fibroin Film Monitored by 13C CP/MAS NMR and 1H DQMAS NMR
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(9), 1517; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17091517 - 09 Sep 2016
Cited by 7
Abstract
In order to improve the stiff and brittle characteristics of pure Bombyx mori (B. mori) silk fibroin (SF) film in the dry state, glycerin (Glyc) has been used as a plasticizer. However, there have been very limited studies on the structural [...] Read more.
In order to improve the stiff and brittle characteristics of pure Bombyx mori (B. mori) silk fibroin (SF) film in the dry state, glycerin (Glyc) has been used as a plasticizer. However, there have been very limited studies on the structural characterization of the Glyc-blended SF film. In this study, 13C Cross Polarization/Magic Angle Spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (CP/MAS NMR) was used to monitor the conformational changes in the films by changing the Glyc concentration. The presence of only 5 wt % Glyc in the film induced a significant conformational change in SF where Silk I* (repeated type II β-turn and no α-helix) newly appeared. Upon further increase in Glyc concentration, the percentage of Silk I* increased linearly up to 9 wt % Glyc and then tended to be almost constant (30%). This value (30%) was the same as the fraction of Ala residue within the Silk I* form out of all Ala residues of SF present in B. mori mature silkworm. The 1H DQMAS NMR spectra of Glyc-blended SF films confirmed the appearance of Silk I* in the Glyc-blended SF film. A structural model of Glyc-SF complex including the Silk I* form was proposed with the guidance of the Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulation using 1H–1H distance constraints obtained from the 1H Double-Quantum Magic Angle Spinning (DQMAS) NMR spectra. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Comparative Study of Ultrasonication-Induced and Naturally Self-Assembled Silk Fibroin-Wool Keratin Hydrogel Biomaterials
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(9), 1497; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17091497 - 07 Sep 2016
Cited by 8
Abstract
This study reports the formation of biocompatible hydrogels using protein polymers from natural silk cocoon fibroins and sheep wool keratins. Silk fibroin protein contains β-sheet secondary structures, allowing for the formation of physical cross-linkers in the hydrogels. Comparative studies were performed on two [...] Read more.
This study reports the formation of biocompatible hydrogels using protein polymers from natural silk cocoon fibroins and sheep wool keratins. Silk fibroin protein contains β-sheet secondary structures, allowing for the formation of physical cross-linkers in the hydrogels. Comparative studies were performed on two groups of samples. In the first group, ultrasonication was used to induce a quick gelation of a protein aqueous solution, enhancing the ability of Bombyx mori silk fibroin chains to quickly entrap the wool keratin protein molecules homogenously. In the second group, silk/keratin mixtures were left at room temperature for days, resulting in naturally-assembled gelled solutions. It was found that silk/wool blended solutions can form hydrogels at different mixing ratios, with perfectly interconnected gel structure when the wool content was less than 30 weight percent (wt %) for the first group (ultrasonication), and 10 wt % for the second group (natural gel). Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and temperature modulated DSC (TMDSC) were used to confirm that the fibroin/keratin hydrogel system was well-blended without phase separation. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) was used to investigate the secondary structures of blended protein gels. It was found that intermolecular β-sheet contents significantly increase as the system contains more silk for both groups of samples, resulting in stable crystalline cross-linkers in the blended hydrogel structures. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) were used to analyze the samples’ characteristic morphology on both micro- and nanoscales, which showed that ultrasonic waves can significantly enhance the cross-linker formation and avoid phase separation between silk and keratin molecules in the blended systems. With the ability to form cross-linkages non-chemically, these silk/wool hydrogels may be economically useful for various biomedical applications, thanks to the good biocompatibility of protein molecules and the various characteristics of hydrogel systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Preparation of Silk Sericin/Lignin Blend Beads for the Removal of Hexavalent Chromium Ions
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(9), 1466; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17091466 - 02 Sep 2016
Cited by 17
Abstract
In the present study, novel adsorbents having high adsorption capability and reusability were prepared using agricultural by-products: silk sericin and lignin. Silk sericin and lignin blend beads were successfully prepared using simple coagulation methods for the removal of hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) from aqueous [...] Read more.
In the present study, novel adsorbents having high adsorption capability and reusability were prepared using agricultural by-products: silk sericin and lignin. Silk sericin and lignin blend beads were successfully prepared using simple coagulation methods for the removal of hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) from aqueous solution. A 1 M lithium chloride (LiCl)/dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) solvent system successfully dissolved both sericin and lignin and had sufficient viscosity for bead preparation. Compared to the conventional sericin bead adsorbent, sericin/lignin blend beads showed higher Cr(VI) adsorption capacity. The amount of lignin added to the adsorbent greatly affected the adsorption capacity of the beads, and a 50:50 sericin/lignin blend ratio was optimal. Adsorption behavior followed the Freundlich isotherm, which means the adsorption of Cr(VI) occurred on the heterogeneous surface. Cr(VI) adsorption capability increased with temperature because of thermodynamic-kinetic effects. In addition, over 90% of Cr(VI) ions were recovered from the Cr(VI) adsorbed sericin/lignin beads in a 1 M NaOH solution. The adsorption-desorption recycling process was stable for more than seven cycles, and the recycling efficiency was 82%. It is expected that the sericin/lignin beads could be successfully applied in wastewater remediation especially for hazardous Cr(VI) ions in industrial wastewater. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Major Ampullate Spider Silk with Indistinguishable Spidroin Dope Conformations Leads to Different Fiber Molecular Structures
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(8), 1353; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17081353 - 18 Aug 2016
Cited by 9
Abstract
To plentifully benefit from its properties (mechanical, optical, biological) and its potential to manufacture green materials, the structure of spider silk has to be known accurately. To this aim, the major ampullate (MA) silk of Araneus diadematus (AD) and Nephila clavipes [...] Read more.
To plentifully benefit from its properties (mechanical, optical, biological) and its potential to manufacture green materials, the structure of spider silk has to be known accurately. To this aim, the major ampullate (MA) silk of Araneus diadematus (AD) and Nephila clavipes (NC) has been compared quantitatively in the liquid and fiber states using Raman spectromicroscopy. The data show that the spidroin conformations of the two dopes are indistinguishable despite their specific amino acid composition. This result suggests that GlyGlyX and GlyProGlyXX amino acid motifs (X = Leu, Glu, Tyr, Ser, etc.) are conformationally equivalent due to the chain flexibility in the aqueous environment. Species-related sequence specificity is expressed more extensively in the fiber: the β-sheet content is lower and width of the orientation distribution of the carbonyl groups is broader for AD (29% and 58°, respectively) as compared to NC (37% and 51°, respectively). β-Sheet content values are close to the proportion of polyalanine segments, suggesting that β-sheet formation is mainly dictated by the spidroin sequence. The extent of molecular alignment seems to be related to the presence of proline (Pro) that may decrease conformational flexibility and inhibit chain extension and alignment upon drawing. It appears that besides the presence of Pro, secondary structure and molecular orientation contribute to the different mechanical properties of MA threads. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Characterizing Aciniform Silk Repetitive Domain Backbone Dynamics and Hydrodynamic Modularity
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(8), 1305; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17081305 - 10 Aug 2016
Cited by 2
Abstract
Spider aciniform (wrapping) silk is a remarkable fibrillar biomaterial with outstanding mechanical properties. It is a modular protein consisting, in Argiope trifasciata, of a core repetitive domain of 200 amino acid units (W units). In solution, the W units comprise a globular [...] Read more.
Spider aciniform (wrapping) silk is a remarkable fibrillar biomaterial with outstanding mechanical properties. It is a modular protein consisting, in Argiope trifasciata, of a core repetitive domain of 200 amino acid units (W units). In solution, the W units comprise a globular folded core, with five α-helices, and disordered tails that are linked to form a ~63-residue intrinsically disordered linker in concatemers. Herein, we present nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy-based 15N spin relaxation analysis, allowing characterization of backbone dynamics as a function of residue on the ps–ns timescale in the context of the single W unit (W1) and the two unit concatemer (W2). Unambiguous mapping of backbone dynamics throughout W2 was made possible by segmental NMR active isotope-enrichment through split intein-mediated trans-splicing. Spectral density mapping for W1 and W2 reveals a striking disparity in dynamics between the folded core and the disordered linker and tail regions. These data are also consistent with rotational diffusion behaviour where each globular domain tumbles almost independently of its neighbour. At a localized level, helix 5 exhibits elevated high frequency dynamics relative to the proximal helix 4, supporting a model of fibrillogenesis where this helix unfolds as part of the transition to a mixed α-helix/β-sheet fibre. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Characterizing the Effects of Washing by Different Detergents on the Wavelength-Scale Microstructures of Silk Samples Using Mueller Matrix Polarimetry
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(8), 1301; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17081301 - 10 Aug 2016
Cited by 29
Abstract
Silk fibers suffer from microstructural changes due to various external environmental conditions including daily washings. In this paper, we take the backscattering Mueller matrix images of silk samples for non-destructive and real-time quantitative characterization of the wavelength-scale microstructure and examination of the effects [...] Read more.
Silk fibers suffer from microstructural changes due to various external environmental conditions including daily washings. In this paper, we take the backscattering Mueller matrix images of silk samples for non-destructive and real-time quantitative characterization of the wavelength-scale microstructure and examination of the effects of washing by different detergents. The 2D images of the 16 Mueller matrix elements are reduced to the frequency distribution histograms (FDHs) whose central moments reveal the dominant structural features of the silk fibers. A group of new parameters are also proposed to characterize the wavelength-scale microstructural changes of the silk samples during the washing processes. Monte Carlo (MC) simulations are carried out to better understand how the Mueller matrix parameters are related to the wavelength-scale microstructure of silk fibers. The good agreement between experiments and simulations indicates that the Mueller matrix polarimetry and FDH based parameters can be used to quantitatively detect the wavelength-scale microstructural features of silk fibers. Mueller matrix polarimetry may be used as a powerful tool for non-destructive and in situ characterization of the wavelength-scale microstructures of silk based materials. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Evidence of Decoupling Protein Structure from Spidroin Expression in Spider Dragline Silks
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(8), 1294; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17081294 - 09 Aug 2016
Cited by 7
Abstract
The exceptional strength and extensibility of spider dragline silk have been thought to be facilitated by two spidroins, major ampullate spidroin 1 (MaSp1) and major ampullate spidroin 2 (MaSp2), under the assumption that protein secondary structures are coupled with the expressed spidroins. We [...] Read more.
The exceptional strength and extensibility of spider dragline silk have been thought to be facilitated by two spidroins, major ampullate spidroin 1 (MaSp1) and major ampullate spidroin 2 (MaSp2), under the assumption that protein secondary structures are coupled with the expressed spidroins. We tested this assumption for the dragline silk of three co-existing Australian spiders, Argiope keyserlingi, Latrodectus hasselti and Nephila plumipes. We found that silk amino acid compositions did not differ among spiders collected in May. We extended these analyses temporally and found the amino acid compositions of A. keyserlingi silks to differ when collected in May compared to November, while those of L. hasselti did not. To ascertain whether their secondary structures were decoupled from spidroin expression, we performed solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) analysis on the silks of all spiders collected in May. We found the distribution of alanine toward β-sheet and 3,10helix/random coil conformations differed between species, as did their relative crystallinities, with A. keyserlingi having the greatest 3,10helix/random coil composition and N. plumipes the greatest crystallinity. The protein secondary structures correlated with the mechanical properties for each of the silks better than the amino acid compositions. Our findings suggested that a differential distribution of alanine during spinning could decouple secondary structures from spidroin expression ensuring that silks of desirable mechanical properties are consistently produced. Alternative explanations include the possibility that other spidroins were incorporated into some silks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Minocycline Loaded Hybrid Composites Nanoparticles for Mesenchymal Stem Cells Differentiation into Osteogenesis
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(8), 1222; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17081222 - 28 Jul 2016
Cited by 4
Abstract
Bone transplants are used to treat fractures and increase new tissue development in bone tissue engineering. Grafting of massive implantations showing slow curing rate and results in cell death for poor vascularization. The potentials of biocomposite scaffolds to mimic extracellular matrix (ECM) and [...] Read more.
Bone transplants are used to treat fractures and increase new tissue development in bone tissue engineering. Grafting of massive implantations showing slow curing rate and results in cell death for poor vascularization. The potentials of biocomposite scaffolds to mimic extracellular matrix (ECM) and including new biomaterials could produce a better substitute for new bone tissue formation. A purpose of this study is to analyze polycaprolactone/silk fibroin/hyaluronic acid/minocycline hydrochloride (PCL/SF/HA/MH) nanoparticles initiate human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) proliferation and differentiation into osteogenesis. Electrospraying technique was used to develop PCL, PCL/SF, PCL/SF/HA and PCL/SF/HA/MH hybrid biocomposite nanoparticles and characterization was analyzed by field emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM), contact angle and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). The obtained results proved that the particle diameter and water contact angle obtained around 0.54 ± 0.12 to 3.2 ± 0.18 µm and 43.93 ± 10.8° to 133.1 ± 12.4° respectively. The cell proliferation and cell-nanoparticle interactions analyzed using (3-(4,5-dimethyl thiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium inner salt) MTS assay (Promega, Madison, WI, USA), FESEM for cell morphology and 5-Chloromethylfluorescein diacetate (CMFDA) dye for imaging live cells. Osteogenic differentiation was proved by expression of osteocalcin, alkaline phosphatase activity (ALP) and mineralization was confirmed by using alizarin red (ARS). The quantity of cells was considerably increased in PCL/SF/HA/MH nanoparticles when compare to all other biocomposite nanoparticles and the cell interaction was observed more on PCL/SF/HA/MH nanoparticles. The electrosprayed PCL/SF/HA/MH biocomposite nanoparticle significantly initiated increased cell proliferation, osteogenic differentiation and mineralization, which provide huge potential for bone tissue engineering. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Structural Analysis of Hand Drawn Bumblebee Bombus terrestris Silk
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(7), 1170; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17071170 - 20 Jul 2016
Cited by 1
Abstract
Bombus terrestris, commonly known as the buff-tailed bumblebee, is native to Europe, parts of Africa and Asia. It is commercially bred for use as a pollinator of greenhouse crops. Larvae pupate within a silken cocoon that they construct from proteins produced in [...] Read more.
Bombus terrestris, commonly known as the buff-tailed bumblebee, is native to Europe, parts of Africa and Asia. It is commercially bred for use as a pollinator of greenhouse crops. Larvae pupate within a silken cocoon that they construct from proteins produced in modified salivary glands. The amino acid composition and protein structure of hand drawn B. terrestris, silk fibres was investigated through the use of micro-Raman spectroscopy. Spectra were obtained from single fibres drawn from the larvae salivary gland at a rate of 0.14 cm/s. Raman spectroscopy enabled the identification of poly(alanine), poly(alanine-glycine), phenylalanine, tryptophan, and methionine, which is consistent with the results of amino acid analysis. The dominant protein conformation was found to be coiled coil (73%) while the β-sheet content of 10% is, as expected, lower than those reported for hornets and ants. Polarized Raman spectra revealed that the coiled coils were highly aligned along the fibre axis while the β-sheet and random coil components had their peptide carbonyl groups roughly perpendicular to the fibre axis. The protein orientation distribution is compared to those of other natural and recombinant silks. A structural model for the B. terrestris silk fibre is proposed based on these results. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessArticle
Silkworm Gut Fiber of Bombyx mori as an Implantable and Biocompatible Light-Diffusing Fiber
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(7), 1142; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17071142 - 16 Jul 2016
Cited by 4
Abstract
This work describes a new approach to the delivery of light in deeper tissues, through a silk filament that is implantable, biocompatible, and biodegradable. In the present work, silkworm gut fibers (SGFs) of Bombyx mori L., are made by stretching the silk glands. [...] Read more.
This work describes a new approach to the delivery of light in deeper tissues, through a silk filament that is implantable, biocompatible, and biodegradable. In the present work, silkworm gut fibers (SGFs) of Bombyx mori L., are made by stretching the silk glands. Morphological, structural, and optical properties of the fibers have been characterized and the stimulatory effect of red laser light diffused from the fiber was assayed in fibroblast cultures. SGFs are formed by silk fibroin (SF) mainly in a β-sheet conformation, a stable and non-soluble state in water or biological fluids. The fibers showed a high degree of transparency to visible and infrared radiation. Using a red laser (λ = 650 nm) as source, the light was efficiently diffused along the fiber wall, promoting a significant increment in the cell metabolism 5 h after the irradiation. SGFs have shown their excellent properties as light-diffusing optical fibers with a stimulatory effect on cells. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview
A Review of Structure Construction of Silk Fibroin Biomaterials from Single Structures to Multi-Level Structures
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18(3), 237; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18030237 - 03 Mar 2017
Cited by 46
Abstract
The biological performance of artificial biomaterials is closely related to their structure characteristics. Cell adhesion, migration, proliferation, and differentiation are all strongly affected by the different scale structures of biomaterials. Silk fibroin (SF), extracted mainly from silkworms, has become a popular biomaterial due [...] Read more.
The biological performance of artificial biomaterials is closely related to their structure characteristics. Cell adhesion, migration, proliferation, and differentiation are all strongly affected by the different scale structures of biomaterials. Silk fibroin (SF), extracted mainly from silkworms, has become a popular biomaterial due to its excellent biocompatibility, exceptional mechanical properties, tunable degradation, ease of processing, and sufficient supply. As a material with excellent processability, SF can be processed into various forms with different structures, including particulate, fiber, film, and three-dimensional (3D) porous scaffolds. This review discusses and summarizes the various constructions of SF-based materials, from single structures to multi-level structures, and their applications. In combination with single structures, new techniques for creating special multi-level structures of SF-based materials, such as micropatterning and 3D-printing, are also briefly addressed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessReview
Natural Occurring Silks and Their Analogues as Materials for Nerve Conduits
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(10), 1754; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17101754 - 20 Oct 2016
Cited by 6
Abstract
Spider silk and its synthetic derivatives have a light weight in combination with good strength and elasticity. Their high cytocompatibility and low immunogenicity make them well suited for biomaterial products such as nerve conduits. Silk proteins slowly degrade enzymatically in vivo, thus allowing [...] Read more.
Spider silk and its synthetic derivatives have a light weight in combination with good strength and elasticity. Their high cytocompatibility and low immunogenicity make them well suited for biomaterial products such as nerve conduits. Silk proteins slowly degrade enzymatically in vivo, thus allowing for an initial therapeutic effect such as in nerve scaffolding to facilitate endogenous repair processes, and then are removed. Silks are biopolymers naturally produced by many species of arthropods including spiders, caterpillars and mites. The silk fibers are secreted by the labial gland of the larvae of some orders of Holometabola (insects with pupa) or the spinnerets of spiders. The majority of studies using silks for biomedical applications use materials from silkworms or spiders, mostly of the genus Nephila clavipes. Silk is one of the most promising biomaterials with effects not only in nerve regeneration, but in a number of regenerative applications. The development of silks for human biomedical applications is of high scientific and clinical interest. Biomaterials in use for biomedical applications have to meet a number of requirements such as biocompatibility and elicitation of no more than a minor inflammatory response, biodegradability in a reasonable time and specific structural properties. Here we present the current status in the field of silk-based conduit development for nerve repair and discuss current advances with regard to potential clinical transfer of an implantable nerve conduit for enhancement of nerve regeneration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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Open AccessReview
Silk Spinning in Silkworms and Spiders
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17(8), 1290; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17081290 - 09 Aug 2016
Cited by 30
Abstract
Spiders and silkworms spin silks that outcompete the toughness of all natural and manmade fibers. Herein, we compare and contrast the spinning of silk in silkworms and spiders, with the aim of identifying features that are important for fiber formation. Although spiders and [...] Read more.
Spiders and silkworms spin silks that outcompete the toughness of all natural and manmade fibers. Herein, we compare and contrast the spinning of silk in silkworms and spiders, with the aim of identifying features that are important for fiber formation. Although spiders and silkworms are very distantly related, some features of spinning silk seem to be universal. Both spiders and silkworms produce large silk proteins that are highly repetitive and extremely soluble at high pH, likely due to the globular terminal domains that flank an intermediate repetitive region. The silk proteins are produced and stored at a very high concentration in glands, and then transported along a narrowing tube in which they change conformation in response primarily to a pH gradient generated by carbonic anhydrase and proton pumps, as well as to ions and shear forces. The silk proteins thereby convert from random coil and alpha helical soluble conformations to beta sheet fibers. We suggest that factors that need to be optimized for successful production of artificial silk proteins capable of forming tough fibers include protein solubility, pH sensitivity, and preservation of natively folded proteins throughout the purification and initial spinning processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silk-Based Materials: From Production to Characterization)
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