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The mechanical properties of spider dragline fibres are altered by CO(2) exposure under anaesthetizing conditions during the spinning process. In order to relate these macroscopic changes to a microscopic model, the extrusion of dragline silk was studied by synchrotron radiation microdiffraction. A brief exposure of a female Nephila senigalensis spider to CO(2 )results after an incubation time of less than 7 min in the extrusion of a thread (two fibres) swollen with water. The data are interpreted for a model of crystalline beta-sheet domains containing nanofibrils, which reinforce a network of protein chains. The protein network absorbs water, leaving the nanofibrils unaffected. A continuous flow of CO(2) results in a co-extrusion of a dragline thread and an isotropic silk fraction, which probably has a glycine-rich sequence. Long CO(2) exposure reduces the axial alignment of nanofibrils, presumably due to a partial destruction of the amorphous network.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





30 - 33


Animals, Carbon Dioxide, Insect Proteins, Silk, Spiders, X-Ray Diffraction