Strain stiffening in collagen I networks


  • This article was originally published online as an accepted preprint. The “Published Online” date corresponds to the preprint version. You can request a copy of the preprint by emailing the Biopolymers editorial office at


Biopolymer gels exhibit strain stiffening that is generally not seen in synthetic gels. Here, we investigate the strain-stiffening behavior in collagen I gels that demonstrate elasticity derived from a variety of sources including crosslinking through telopeptides, bundling through low-temperature gelation, and exogenous crosslinking with genipin. In all cases, it is found that these gels exhibit strain stiffening; in general, onset of strain stiffening occurs earlier, yield strain is lower, and degree of strain stiffening is smaller in higher concentration gels and in those displaying thick fibril bundles. Recovery after exposure to high strains is substantial and similar in all gels, suggesting that much of the stiffening comes from reversible network deformations. A key finding of this study is that collagen I gels of identical storage and loss moduli may display different nonlinear responses and different capacities to recover from high strain. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.