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The possible role of liquid-liquid phase separation as an intermediate step in spider silk assembly

Brongers, Pieter (2021) The possible role of liquid-liquid phase separation as an intermediate step in spider silk assembly. Research Paper, Nanoscience.


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Spider silk exhibits exceptional properties that could bring great technological advances. Understanding the natural spinning process would allow to produce strong, highly engineered protein fibers but this has been facing challenges. Large efforts have resulted in an understanding of silk proteins and their responses to chemical and mechanical stimuli, as well as how the natural spider spinning gland produces these stimuli. However spinning is still hard to replicate due to an incomplete picture of the microscopic processes occurring to allow rapid fiber formation from a concentrated solution. Recently a new suggestion has emerged that spider silk proteins might phase separate into liquid condensates and this could help to bridge a gap in understanding. At first glance this idea seems to contradict long-standing theories involving micelles or liquid crystals for the storage of silk proteins and the transition to fibers. This review will consider the novel observations and try to relate them to the current views. Then it will be examined where the ideas meet or discrepancies can come from. It is concluded that the theory of liquid crystals and liquid-liquid phase separation do not mutually exclude each other. The distinction between the origin of micelles or coacervates is less clear but the assembly seems to depend on the structure of the N- and C- terminal domains and the amino acid sequence and length of the repetitive domain.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Paper)
Supervisor name: Kamperman, M.M.G.
Degree programme: Nanoscience
Thesis type: Research Paper
Language: English
Date Deposited: 18 May 2021 08:08
Last Modified: 18 May 2021 08:08

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