• Raman spectromicroscopy;
  • spider silk fibers;
  • silk protein structure;
  • molecular orientation;
  • spinning dope


Raman spectroscopy has long been proved to be a useful tool to study the conformation of protein-based materials such as silk. Thanks to recent developments, linearly polarized Raman spectromicroscopy has appeared very efficient to characterize the molecular structure of native single silk fibers and spinning dopes because it can provide information relative to the protein secondary structure, molecular orientation, and amino acid composition. This review will describe recent advances in the study of the structure of silk by Raman spectromicroscopy. A particular emphasis is put on the spider dragline and silkworm cocoon threads, other fibers spun by orb-weaving spiders, the spinning dope contained in their silk glands and the effect of mechanical deformation. Taken together, the results of the literature show that Raman spectromicroscopy is particularly efficient to investigate all aspects of silk structure and production. The data provided can lead to a better understanding of the structure of the silk dope, transformations occurring during the spinning process, and structure and mechanical properties of native fibers. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 97: 322–336, 2012.