Spider dragline silk is well known for its outstanding mechanical properties - a combination of strength and extensibility that makes it one of the toughest materials known. Two proteins, major ampullate spidroin 1 (MaSp1) and 2 (MaSp2), comprise dragline silk fibers. There has been considerable focus placed on understanding the source of spider silk's unique mechanical properties by investigating the protein composition, molecular structure and dynamics. Chemical compositional heterogeneity of spider silk fiber is critical to understand as it provides important information for the interactions between MaSp1 and MaSp2. Here, the amino acid composition of dragline silk protein was precisely determined using a solution-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) approach on hydrolyzed silk fibers. In a similar fashion, solution-state NMR was applied to probe the "13"C/"15"N incorporation in silk, which is essential to understand for designing particular solid-state NMR methods for silk structural characterization. Solid-state NMR was used to elucidate silk protein molecular dynamics and the supercontraction mechanism. A "2"H-"13"C heteronuclear correlation (HETCOR) solid-state NMR technique was developed to extract site-specific "2"H quadrupole patterns and spin-lattice relaxation rates for understanding backbone and side-chain dynamics. Using this technique, molecular dynamics were determined for a number of repetitive motifs in silk proteins - Ala residing nanocrystalline &beta-sheet; domains, 3"1"-helical regions, and, Gly-Pro-Gly-XX &beta-turn; motifs. The protein backbone and side-chain dynamics of silk fibers in both dry and wet states reveal the impact of water on motifs with different secondary structures. Spider venom is comprised of a diverse range of molecules including salts, small organics, acylpolyamines, peptides and proteins. Neurotoxins are an important family of peptides in spider venom and have been shown to target and modulate various ion channels. The neurotoxins are Cys-rich and share an inhibitor Cys knot (ICK) fold. Here, the molecular structure of one G. rosea tarantula neurotoxin, GsAF2, was determined by solution-state NMR. In addition, the interaction between neurotoxins and model lipid bilayers was probed with solid-state NMR and negative-staining (NS) transmission electron microscopy (TEM). It is shown that the neurotoxins influence lipid bilayer assembly and morphology with the formation of nanodiscs, worm-like micelles and small vesicles.
- Molecular structure and dynamics of spider silk and venom proteins investigated by nuclear magnetic resonance