A comparison of the mechanical and structural properties of fibrin fibers with other protein fibers

Cell Biochem Biophys. 2007;49(3):165-81. doi: 10.1007/s12013-007-9001-4. Epub 2007 Oct 2.


In the past few years a great deal of progress has been made in studying the mechanical and structural properties of biological protein fibers. Here, we compare and review the stiffness (Young's modulus, E) and breaking strain (also called rupture strain or extensibility, epsilon(max)) of numerous biological protein fibers in light of the recently reported mechanical properties of fibrin fibers. Emphasis is also placed on the structural features and molecular mechanisms that endow biological protein fibers with their respective mechanical properties. Generally, stiff biological protein fibers have a Young's modulus on the order of a few Gigapascal and are not very extensible (epsilon(max) < 20%). They also display a very regular arrangement of their monomeric units. Soft biological protein fibers have a Young's modulus on the order of a few Megapascal and are very extensible (epsilon(max) > 100%). These soft, extensible fibers employ a variety of molecular mechanisms, such as extending amorphous regions or unfolding protein domains, to accommodate large strains. We conclude our review by proposing a novel model of how fibrin fibers might achieve their extremely large extensibility, despite the regular arrangement of the monomeric fibrin units within a fiber. We propose that fibrin fibers accommodate large strains by two major mechanisms: (1) an alpha-helix to beta-strand conversion of the coiled coils; (2) a partial unfolding of the globular C-terminal domain of the gamma-chain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Chickens
  • Disulfides / chemistry
  • Elasticity
  • Fibrin / chemistry*
  • Fibrinogen / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Microscopy, Video
  • Models, Biological
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Disulfides
  • Proteins
  • Fibrin
  • Fibrinogen