Foundation of the Outstanding Toughness in Biomimetic and Natural Spider Silk

Biomacromolecules. 2017 Dec 11;18(12):3954-3962. doi: 10.1021/acs.biomac.7b00990. Epub 2017 Oct 17.


Spider dragline silk is distinguished through the highest toughness of all natural as well as artificial fiber materials. To unravel the toughness's molecular foundation and to enable manufacturing biomimetic analogues, we investigated the morphological and functional structure of recombinant fibers, which exhibit toughness similar to that of the natural template, on the molecular scale by means of vibrational spectroscopy and on the mesoscale by X-ray scattering. Whereas the former was used to identify protein secondary structures and their alignment in the natural as well as artificial silks, the latter revealed nanometer-sized crystallites on the higher structural level. Furthermore, a spectral red shift of a crystal-specific absorption band demonstrated that macroscopically applied stress is directly transferred to the molecular scale, where it is finally dissipated. Concerning this feature, both the natural as well as the biomimetic fibers are almost indistinguishable, giving rise to the toughness of both fiber materials.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biomimetics / methods
  • Fibroins / chemistry
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Silk / chemistry*
  • Spiders / chemistry*
  • Tensile Strength


  • Silk
  • Fibroins