A protocol for the production of recombinant spider silk-like proteins for artificial fiber spinning

Nat Protoc. 2009;4(3):341-55. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2008.250.


The extreme strength and elasticity of spider silks originate from the modular nature of their repetitive proteins. To exploit such materials and mimic spider silks, comprehensive strategies to produce and spin recombinant fibrous proteins are necessary. This protocol describes silk gene design and cloning, protein expression in bacteria, recombinant protein purification and fiber formation. With an improved gene construction and cloning scheme, this technique is adaptable for the production of any repetitive fibrous proteins, and ensures the exact reproduction of native repeat sequences, analogs or chimeric versions. The proteins are solubilized in 1,1,1,3,3,3-hexafluoro-2-propanol (HFIP) at 25-30% (wt/vol) for extrusion into fibers. This protocol, routinely used to spin single micrometer-size fibers from several recombinant silk-like proteins from different spider species, is a powerful tool to generate protein libraries with corresponding fibers for structure-function relationship investigations in protein-based biomaterials. This protocol may be completed in 40 d.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • Protein Engineering / methods*
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Silk / biosynthesis*
  • Silk / chemistry
  • Silk / genetics
  • Spiders / chemistry*
  • Spiders / genetics
  • Tensile Strength


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Silk