Fundamental Studies on Spider Egg Case Silk Biomaterials and their Mimics

Project: Research project

Project Details


Fundamental Studies on Spider Egg Case Silk Biomaterials and their Mimics Fundamental Studies on Spider Egg Case Silk Biomaterials and their Mimics Overview Silk is a fascinating, naturally occurring biomaterial that has had a large impact on human civilization. Although silkworm silk is the most commonly investigated biomaterial, in part because of wide availability, the diversity of spider silks available can lead to new generations of hitherto unexplored biomaterials. Spiders produce different forms of silk proteins or spidroins, of which, tubuliform and aciniform silk is used to construct egg cases. Spider egg case silk proteins and biopolymer fibers have scarcely been studied, compared to spider dragline silk and silkworm silk. Yet, its mechanical properties (e.g. toughness) and conserved and repetitive gene sequence have been known and shown to be significantly different from other spider silks. Our joint research team will explore the structure-function relationship in spider egg case silks, design spider silk-mimicking polypeptides derived from spider egg case silk protein motifs, generate nanomaterials composed of egg case silks and nanoparticles, and evaluate the biocompatibility of spider egg case silks. Intellectual Merit Our research team will develop new methods for obtaining appreciable quantities of enriched spider egg case silks and carry out fundamental structural and property investigation using cutting edge characterization approaches. We will design and generate new peptide mimics derived from repetitive amino acid motifs found in spider egg case proteins in order to carry out structure-function and self-assembly studies, and potentially overcome any production bottlenecks for practical application. Using both spider silk polypeptides and processed spider egg case silk, we will synthesize nanoparticle-silk composite biomaterials with tunable optical, mechanical and thermal properties. All of the above biomaterials and silk-nanoparticle interfaces will be characterized at the molecular level using advanced solid-state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (ssNMR) and x-ray diffraction (XRD) techniques. Therefore, we propose to determine a systematic structure-function relationship in spider egg case silk proteins, spider silk polypeptides, and silk-nanoparticle biomaterials. Finally, we will comprehensively evaluate the biocompatibility, including toxicity and immune response of the spider egg-case silks using 2D and 3D cell culture and pilot in vivo studies. Broader Impacts The ability to specifically relate molecular level structure in biomaterials to mechanical 'function' and physical properties will allow for the development of systematic tunable biomaterials to be developed and employed for tailored applications. One specific goal of this joint project is to interface spider egg case silk and related polypeptide mimics with nanoparticles. Hence, allowing our research team to develop novel bionanomaterials with predictably tunable optical, mechanical and thermal properties. The proposed research projects will involve physicists, chemists, biochemists and bioengineers from Arizona State University (ASU) and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). This multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary research will expose graduate, undergraduate and high school students to modern transdisciplinary research and modern communication and teamwork tools for building and maintaining research across multiple labs and institutes. The research team will be exposed to scientific research and engineering techniques at ASU and ANL. Our collaborative research group will also participate in Science and Engineering Experience (SCENE) for high school students. Specific emphasis will be placed on outreach to underrepresented Hispanic and Native American schools, which is an institutional initiative at ASU. We will also collaborate with ASU Open Door, ASU Society of Biomaterials Student Chapter for broader outreach and develop a Twitter handle dedicated to spider silks for outreach to the global community.
Effective start/end date6/15/215/31/24


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $500,000.00


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