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Keywords:

  • elastin;
  • biomaterials;
  • elastin-like polypeptides;
  • sequence;
  • mechanical properties

Elastin is the polymeric, extracellular matrix protein that provides properties of extensibility and elastic recoil to large arteries, lung parenchyma, and other tissues. Elastin assembles by crosslinking through lysine residues of its monomeric precursor, tropoelastin. Tropoelastin, as well as polypeptides based on tropoelastin sequences, undergo a process of self-assembly that aligns lysine residues for crosslinking. As a result, both the full-length monomer as well as elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs) can be made into biomaterials whose properties resemble those of native polymeric elastin. Using both full-length human tropoelastin (hTE) as well as ELPs, we and others have previously reported on the influence of sequence and domain arrangements on self-assembly properties. Here we investigate the role of domain sequence and organization on the tensile mechanical properties of crosslinked biomaterials fabricated from ELP variants. In general, substitutions in ELPs involving similiar domain types (hydrophobic or crosslinking) had little effect on mechanical properties. However, modifications altering either the structure or the characteristic sequence style of these domains had significant effects on such properties. In addition, using a series of deletion and replacement constructs for full-length hTE, we provide new insights into the role of conserved domains of tropoelastin in determining mechanical properties. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 99: 392–407, 2013.