Determining secondary structure in spider dragline silk by carbon-carbon correlation solid-state NMR spectroscopy

J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Jul 30;130(30):9871-7. doi: 10.1021/ja8021208. Epub 2008 Jul 2.


Two-dimensional (2D) (13)C-(13)C NMR correlation spectra were collected on (13)C-enriched dragline silk fibers produced from Nephila clavipes spiders. The 2D NMR spectra were acquired under fast magic-angle spinning (MAS) and dipolar-assisted rotational resonance (DARR) recoupling to enhance magnetization transfer between (13)C spins. Spectra obtained with short (150 ms) recoupling periods were utilized to extract distinct chemical shifts for all carbon resonances of each labeled amino acid in the silk spectra, resulting in a complete resonance assignment. The NMR results presented here permit extraction of the precise chemical shift of the carbonyl environment for each (13)C-labeled amino acid in spider silk for the first time. Spectra collected with longer recoupling periods (1 s) were implemented to detect intermolecular magnetization exchange between neighboring amino acids. This information is used to ascribe NMR resonances to the specific repetitive amino acid motifs prevalent in spider silk proteins. These results indicate that glycine and alanine are both present in two distinct structural environments: a disordered 3(1)-helical conformation and an ordered beta-sheet structure. The former can be ascribed to the Gly-Gly-Ala motif while the latter is assigned to the poly(Ala) and poly(Gly-Ala) domains.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Female
  • Fibroins / chemistry*
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular / methods*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Silk / chemistry*
  • Spiders*


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Silk
  • Fibroins