Characterizing the secondary protein structure of black widow dragline silk using solid-state NMR and X-ray diffraction.

Research paper by Janelle E JE Jenkins, Sujatha S Sampath, Emily E Butler, Jihyun J Kim, Robert W RW Henning, Gregory P GP Holland, Jeffery L JL Yarger

Indexed on: 13 Sep '13Published on: 13 Sep '13Published in: Biomacromolecules


This study provides a detailed secondary structural characterization of major ampullate dragline silk from Latrodectus hesperus (black widow) spiders. X-ray diffraction results show that the structure of black widow major ampullate silk fibers is comprised of stacked β-sheet nanocrystallites oriented parallel to the fiber axis and an amorphous region with oriented (anisotropic) and isotropic components. The combination of two-dimensional (2D) (13)C-(13)C through-space and through-bond solid-state NMR experiments provide chemical shifts that are used to determine detailed information about the amino acid motif secondary structure in black widow spider dragline silk. Individual amino acids are incorporated into different repetitive motifs that make up the majority of this protein-based biopolymer. From the solid-state NMR measurements, we assign distinct secondary conformations to each repetitive amino acid motif and, hence, to the amino acids that make up the motifs. Specifically, alanine is incorporated in β-sheet (poly(Alan) and poly(Gly-Ala)), 3(1)-helix (poly(Gly-Gly-Xaa), and α-helix (poly(Gln-Gln-Ala-Tyr)) components. Glycine is determined to be in β-sheet (poly(Gly-Ala)) and 3(1)-helical (poly(Gly-Gly-X(aa))) regions, while serine is present in β-sheet (poly(Gly-Ala-Ser)), 3(1)-helix (poly(Gly-Gly-Ser)), and β-turn (poly(Gly-Pro-Ser)) structures. These various motif-specific secondary structural elements are quantitatively correlated to the primary amino acid sequence of major ampullate spidroin 1 and 2 (MaSp1 and MaSp2) and are shown to form a self-consistent model for black widow dragline silk.