(746c) The Fractal Self-Assembly of the Silk Protein Sericin for Biomaterial Development
AIChE Annual Meeting
Friday, November 12, 2010 - 9:10am to 9:30am
Silk consists primarily of two proteins - a fibrous core protein, fibroin and a glue protein, sericin, which envelops the fibroin fibers with sticky layers thus helping in the formation of cocoon, achieved by cementing the silk fibers together. Sericin, a water soluble protein has traditionally been discarded in silk processing, despite great potential for use as a biomaterial. Here we present results showing that this glue protein, sericin has the ability to form self-assembled nano and micro-structures with hierarchical self-similarity across length scales in the form of a diffusion-limited, fractal assembly. Sericin obtained from two silkworms, a domesticated mulberry Bombyx mori and a wild non-mulberry Antheraea mylitta were studied; with particular insight into its structure and morphology as it dried on a surface. High-resolution atomic force microscopy was used to image the self-assembled protein, with investigations on the various factors that influenced this process. We describe the self assembly patterns formed by the sericin protein and analyze the images based on the theory of diffusion limited aggregation to explain the fractal nature of these architectures observed. The unique physical behavior and fractal nature of this glue protein may represent a key step in understanding its biological relevance of sericin as well as possibilities for the self-assembly and formation of silk-based biomaterials.