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Bombyx morisilk fibroin liquid crystallinity and crystallization at aqueous fibroin–organic solvent interfaces

International Journal of Biological Macromolecules
DOI: 10.1016/s0141-8130(99)00005-7
  • Bombyx Mori
  • Fibroin Liquid Crystallinity
  • Aqueous–Hexane Interface
  • Biology


Abstract A banded morphology has been observed for Bombyx mori silk fibroin films obtained from an aqueous–hexane interface; the period of the banding is approximately 1 μm. Morphology and diffraction from different regions of the banded structure suggest that it is a free surface formed by a cholesteric liquid crystal. Truncated hexagonal lamellar crystallites of B. mori silk fibroin have been observed in films formed in the surface excess layer of fibroin at the interface between aqueous fibroin and hexane or chloroform. Based on initial crystallographic evidence, a three-fold helical conformation has been ascribed to the fibroin chains within the crystals. The chain conformation and crystalline habit appear to be similar to the silk III structure previously observed at the air–water interface (Valluzzi R, Gido SP. Biopolymers 1997;42:705–717; Valluzzi R, Gido S, Zhang W, Muller W, Kaplan D. Macromolecules 1996;29:8606–8614) but the crystalline packing is different. Diffraction data obtained for the crystallites are similar to diffraction behavior for a collagen-like model peptide. Diffraction patterns obtained from crystallized regions of the banded morphology can be indexed using the same unit cell as the hexagonal lamellar crystallites. Surfactancy of fibroin and subsequent aggregation and mesophase formation may help to explain the liquid crystallinity reported for silk, which is long suspected to play a role in the biological silk spinning process (Valluzzi R, Gido SP. Biopolymers 1997;42:705–717; Willcox, P. J.; Gido, SP, Muller W, Kaplan DL. Macromolecules 1996;29:5106–5110; Magoshi J, Magoshi Y, Nakamura S. In: Kaplan D, Adams W, Farmer B, Viney C, editors, Mechanism of Fiber Formation of Silkworm. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society 1994:292–310; Magoshi J, Magoshi Y, Nakamura S. J Appl Polym Sci Appl Polym Symp 1985;41:187–204; Magoshi J, Magoshi Y, Nakamura S. Polym Commun 1985;26:309.).

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