Interaction with water causes shrinkage and significant changes in the structure of spider dragline silks, which has been referred to as supercontraction in the literature. Preferred orientation or alignment of protein chains with respect to the fiber axis is extensively changed during this supercontraction process. Synchrotron X-ray micro-fiber diffraction experiments have been performed on Nephila clavipes and Argiope aurantia major and minor ampullate dragline spider fibers in the native dry, contracted (by immersion in water) and restretched (from contracted) states. Changes in the orientation of β-sheet nanocrystallites and the oriented component of the amorphous network have been determined from wide-angle X-ray diffraction patterns. While both the crystalline and amorphous components lose preferred orientation on wetting with water, the nano-crystallites regain their orientation on wet-restretching, whereas the oriented amorphous components only partially regain their orientation. Dragline major ampullate silks in both the species contract more than their minor ampullate silks.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)