Influence of the Sequence Motive Repeating Number on Protein Folding in Spider Silk Protein Films

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Mirjam Hofmaier - , Chair of Physical Chemistry of Polymeric Materials, Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (Author)
  • Julian E. Heger - , Technical University of Munich (Author)
  • Sarah Lentz - , University of Bayreuth (Author)
  • Simona Schwarz - , Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (Author)
  • Peter Müller-Buschbaum - , Technical University of Munich (Author)
  • Thomas Scheibel - , University of Bayreuth (Author)
  • Andreas Fery - , Chair of Physical Chemistry of Polymeric Materials, Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (Author)
  • Martin Müller - , TUD Dresden University of Technology, Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (Author)


Like multiblock copolymers, spider silk proteins are built of repetitive sequence motives. One prominent repetitive motif is based on the consensus sequence of spidroin 4 of the spider Araneus diadematus ADF4. The number x of the repeating sequence motives (C) determines the molecular weight of the recombinant ADF4-based, engineered spider silk protein denoted as eADF4(Cx). eADF4(Cx) can be used as a model for intrinsically disordered proteins (IDP) and to elucidate their folding. Herein, the influence of the variation of the sequence motive repeating number x (x = 1, 2, 4, 8, 16) on the protein folding within eADF4(Cx) films was investigated. eADF4(Cx) films were cast from 1,1,1,3,3,3-hexafluoropropan-2-ol (HFIP) solutions onto planar silicon model substrates, revealing mainly helical or random coil structure. Upon treatment with methanol vapor (ptm), the formation of crystalline β-sheets was triggered. Dichroic Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, circular dichroism, spectroscopic ellipsometry, atomic force microscopy, grazing-incidence small-angle X-ray scattering (GISAXS), grazing-incidence wide-angle X-ray scattering (GIWAXS), and electrokinetic and contact angle measurements were used to get information concerning the secondary structure and folding kinetics, orientation of β-sheets, the ratio of parallel/antiparallel β-sheets, domain sizes and distributions, surface topography, surface potential, hydrophobicity and the film integrity under water. Significant differences in the final β-sheet content, the share of antiparallel β-sheet structures, film integrity, surface potential, and isoelectric points between eADF4(Cx) with x = 1, 2 and eADF4(Cx) with x = 4, 8, 16 gave new insights in the molecular weight-dependent structure formation and film properties of IDP systems. GISAXS and kinetic measurements confirmed a relation between β-sheet crystal growth rate and final β-sheet crystal size. Further, competing effects of reduced diffusibility hindering accelerated crystal growth and enhanced backfolding promoting accelerated crystal growth with increasing molecular weight were discussed.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5707-5721
Number of pages15
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2023

External IDs

PubMed 37934893