The role of 3D structure and protein conformation on the innate and adaptive immune responses to silk-based biomaterials

Biomaterials. 2013 Nov;34(33):8161-71. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.07.018. Epub 2013 Jul 26.


We have investigated monocyte and T cell responsiveness to silk based biomaterials of different physico-chemical characteristics. Here we report that untransformed CD14+ human monocytes respond to overnight exposure to silk fibroin-based biomaterials in tridimensional form by IL-1β and IL-6, but not IL-10 gene expression and protein production. In contrast, fibroin based materials in bidimensional form are unable to stimulate monocyte responsiveness. The elicitation of these effects critically requires contact between biomaterials and responding cells, is not sustained and becomes undetectable in longer term cultures. We also observed that NF-κβ and p38 MAP kinase play key roles in monocyte activation by silk-based biomaterials. On the other hand, fibroin based materials, irrespective of their physico-chemical characteristics appeared to be unable to induce the activation of peripheral blood T cells from healthy donors, as evaluated by the expression of activation markers and IFN-γ gene.

Keywords: Biocompatibility; Cytokines; Monocyte activation; Silk-based biomaterials; Structural architectures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry*
  • Biocompatible Materials / pharmacology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects*
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Silk / chemistry*
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • NF-kappa B
  • Silk
  • Interleukin-10