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Similarities in the Structural Organization of Major and Minor Ampullate Spider Silk



Minor and major ampullate spider silks are studied under varying mechanical stress by static and time-resolved FT-IR spectroscopy. This enables one to trace the external mechanical excitation on a microscopic level and to determine for the different moieties the time dependence of the molecular order parameters and corresponding band shifts. It is concluded that the hierarchical nanostructure of both types of silk is similar, being composed of highly oriented nanocrystals, which are interconnected by amorphous chains that obey the worm-like chain model and have a Gaussian distribution of pre-strain. By that it is possible to describe the mechanical properties of both silks by two adjustable parameters only, the center and width of the distribution. For major ampullate silk, the observed variability is small in pronounced contrast to the findings for minor ampullate.

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