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Self -assembly of silk fibroin under osmotic stress

Sungkyun Sohn, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The supramolecular self-assembly behavior of silk fibroin was investigated using osmotic stress technique. In Chapter 2, a ternary phase diagram of water-silk-LiBr was constructed based on X-ray results on the osmotically stressed regenerated silk fibroin of Bombyx mori silkworm. Microscopic data indicated that silk I is a hydrated structure and a rough estimate of the number of water molecules lost by the structure upon converting from silk I to silk II has been made, and found to be about 2.2 per [GAGAGS] hexapeptide. In Chapter 3, wet-spinning of osmotically stressed, regenerated silk fibroin was performed, based on the prediction that the enhanced control over structure and phase behavior using osmotic stress method helps improve the physical properties of wet-spun regenerated silk fibroin fibers. The osmotic stress was applied in order to pre-structure the regenerated silk fibroin molecule from its original random coil state to more oriented state, manipulating the phase of the silk solution in the phase diagram before the start of spinning. Monofilament fiber with a diameter of 20 µm was produced. In Chapter 4, we investigated if there is a noticeable synergistic osmotic pressure increase between co-existing polymeric osmolyte and salt when extremely highly concentrated salt molecules are present both at sample subphase and stressing subphase, as is the case of silk fibroin self-assembly. The equilibration method that measures osmotic pressure relative to a reference with known osmotic pressure was introduced. Osmotic pressure of aqueous LiBr solution up to 2.75M was measured and it was found that the synergistic effect was insignificant up to this salt concentration. Solution parameters of stressing solutions and Arrhenius kinetics based on time-temperature relationship for the equilibration process were derived as well. In Chapter 5, self-assembly behavior of natural silk fibroin within the gland of Bombyx mori silkworm was investigated using osmotic stress technique. Microscopic and thermodynamic details of this self-assembly process along the spinline have been assessed. Formation of a needle-shaped molecular lath under appropriate osmotic stress was found. Silk I degree of hydration of silk gland was quantitatively estimated by image analysis of optical micrographs and the numbers varied from 2.2 to 2.7 depending on the region in the gland. Osmotic pressure in the gland was also estimated by equilibration method.

Subject Area

Polymers|Biophysics|Materials science

Recommended Citation

Sohn, Sungkyun, "Self -assembly of silk fibroin under osmotic stress" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242379.