Atomistic model of the spider silk nanostructure

Sinan Keten, Markus J. Buehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Spider silk is an ultrastrong and extensible self-assembling biopolymer that outperforms the mechanical characteristics of many synthetic materials including steel. Here we report atomic-level structures that represent aggregates of MaSp1 proteins from the N. Clavipes silk sequence based on a bottom-up computational approach using replica exchange molecular dynamics. We discover that poly-alanine regions predominantly form distinct and orderly beta-sheet crystal domains while disorderly structures are formed by poly-glycine repeats, resembling 31-helices. These could be the molecular source of the large semicrystalline fraction observed in silks, and also form the basis of the so-called "prestretched" molecular configuration. Our structures are validated against experimental data based on dihedral angle pair calculations presented in Ramachandran plots, alpha-carbon atomic distances, as well as secondary structure content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number153701
JournalApplied Physics Letters
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 12 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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