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Abstract

The dynamic mechanical properties of water-swollen elastin under physiological conditions have been investigated. When elastin is tested as a colsed, fixed-volume system, mechanical data could be temperature shifted to produce master curves. Master curves for elastin hydrated at 36°C (water content, 0.46 g water/g protein) and 55°C (water content, 0.41 g/g) were constructed, and in both cases elastin goes through a glass transition, with the glass transition temperatures of -46 and -21°C, respectively. Temperature shift data used to construct the master curves follow the WLF equation, and the glass transition appears to be characteristic of an amorphous, random-polymer network. For elastin tested as an open, variable-volume system free to change its swollen volume as temperature is changed, dynamic mechanical properties appear to be virtually independent of temperature. No glass transition is observed because elastin swelling increases with decreased temperature, and the increase in water content shifts elastin away from its glass transition. It is suggested that the hydrophobic character of elastin, which gives rise to the unusual swelling properties of elastin, evolved to provide a temperature-independent elastomer for the cold-blooded, lower vertebrates.