Spider Silk Proteins: Recent Advances in Recombinant Production, Structure-Function Relationships and Biomedical Applications

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2011 Jan;68(2):169-84. doi: 10.1007/s00018-010-0462-z. Epub 2010 Jul 29.


Spider dragline silk is an outstanding material made up of unique proteins-spidroins. Analysis of the amino acid sequences of full-length spidroins reveals a tripartite composition: an N-terminal non-repetitive domain, a highly repetitive central part composed of approximately 100 polyalanine/glycine rich co-segments and a C-terminal non-repetitive domain. Recent molecular data on the terminal domains suggest that these have different functions. The composite nature of spidroins allows for recombinant production of individual and combined regions. Miniaturized spidroins designed by linking the terminal domains with a limited number of repetitive segments recapitulate the properties of native spidroins to a surprisingly large extent, provided that they are produced and isolated in a manner that retains water solubility until fibre formation is triggered. Biocompatibility studies in cell culture or in vivo of native and recombinant spider silk indicate that they are surprisingly well tolerated, suggesting that recombinant spider silk has potential for biomedical applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials*
  • Fibroins* / chemistry
  • Fibroins* / genetics
  • Fibroins* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / physiology
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Sequence Analysis
  • Spiders*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Fibroins