The fabrication of cellulose-spider silk bio-nanocomposites comprised of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and recombinant spider silk protein fused to a cellulose binding domain (CBD) is described. Silk-CBD successfully binds cellulose, and unlike recombinant silk alone, silk-CBD self-assembles into microfibrils even in the absence of CNCs. Silk-CBD-CNC composite sponges and films show changes in internal structure and CNC alignment related to the addition of silk-CBD. The silk-CBD sponges exhibit improved thermal and structural characteristics in comparison to control recombinant spider silk sponges. The glass transition temperature (Tg) of the silk-CBD sponge was higher than the control silk sponge and similar to native dragline spider silk fibers. Gel filtration analysis, dynamic light scattering (DLS), small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and cryo-transmission electron microscopy (TEM) indicated that silk-CBD, but not the recombinant silk control, formed a nematic liquid crystalline phase similar to that observed in native spider silk during the silk spinning process. Silk-CBD microfibrils spontaneously formed in solution upon ultrasonication. We suggest a model for silk-CBD assembly that implicates CBD in the central role of driving the dimerization of spider silk monomers, a process essential to the molecular assembly of spider-silk nanofibers and silk-CNC composites.
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© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
- Cellulose binding domain
- Cellulose nanocrystals
- Spider silk