Date of Award:

12-2018

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Biological and Irrigation Engineering

Advisor/Chair:

Randolph V. Lewis

Abstract

Spider silks are incredible natural materials that have a wide variety of properties that can rival or outperform even common synthetic materials like Nylon and Kevlar. As nature’s architects, orb-weaving spiders spin seven different silks that are used for very specific roles throughout the spider’s lifecycle. These silks are comprised of proteins called spidroins. Each of these spidroins has evolved to have properties such as strength and/or stretch that make these silks successful and highly adapted in their designated roles in web construction, prey capture and reproduction.

This study involves the production of minor ampullate silk by genetically modifying the bacteria Escherichia coli. Minor ampullate is a lesser studied silk that is used for the first spiral of the orb web. This spiral is a template that the spider uses to finish the web and provides stability during the web construction. Minor ampullate silk is strong, however it does not stretch so it may be well-suited for certain applications such as ballistic materials.

By producing and purifying different arrangements of minor ampullate silk protein, it is possible to learn how this protein can be expressed without using the spider itself. This investigation sheds light on how deviations in the protein sequence and motif arrangement can produce different properties, which can potentially be used to make new materials.

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Included in

Engineering Commons

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