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Controlling the Molecular Structure and Physical Properties of Artificial Honeybee Silk by Heating or by Immersion in Solvents
Honeybee larvae produce silken cocoons that provide mechanical stability to the hive. The silk proteins are small and non-repetitive and therefore can be produced at large scale by fermentation in E. coli. The recombinant proteins can be fabricated into a range of forms; however the resultant material is soluble in water and requires a post production stabilizing treatment. In this study, we describe the structural and mechanical properties of sponges fabricated from artificial honeybee silk proteins that have been stabilized in aqueous methanol baths or by dry heating. Aqueous methanol treatment induces formation of ß-sheets, with the amount of ß-sheet dictated by methanol concentration. Formation of ß-sheets renders sponges insoluble in water and generates a reversibly compressible material. Dry heat treatments at 190°C produce a water insoluble material, that is stiffer than the methanol treated equivalent but without significant secondary structural changes.
http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0052308
 
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