Silk Properties Determined by Gland-Specific Expression of a Spider Fibroin Gene Family

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Science  05 Apr 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5258, pp. 112-115
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5258.112


Spiders produce a variety of silks that range from Lycra-like elastic fibers to Kevlar-like superfibers. A gene family from the spider Araneus diadematus was found to encode silk-forming proteins (fibroins) with different proportions of amorphous glycine-rich domains and crystal domains built from poly(alanine) and poly(glycine-alanine) repeat motifs. Spiders produce silks of different composition by gland-specific expression of this gene family, which allows for a range of mechanical properties according to the crystal-forming potential of the constituent fibroins. These principles of fiber property control may be important in the development of genetically engineered structural proteins.

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