by Andre on 11 February 2008
This month’s journal club at iMechanica is on the mechanics of fibrous protein materials, something I’m currently quite interested in. It’s written by Sinan Keten, a graduate student in Markus Buehler’s group at MIT. The three papers he chose to discuss nicely illustrate the range of work that’s being done on these materials (although of course it’s impossible to cover everything!).
The first paper describes an early attempt to understand spider silk elasticity using data from x-ray scattering experiments (I haven’t read it yet, but I’m very interested in this kind of problem right now so I will soon). The second is a nice review from Marcos Sotomayor and Klaus Schulten at UIUC that describes another level where this problem can be addressed. They emphasize that while single molecule pulling experiments have revealed the mechanical properties of several proteins at the single molecule level, they don’t provide insight into the atomic scale structures that give rise to these properties. Since the early days of single molecule mechanics, in silico experiments have been filling in these gaps and feeding back on the in vitro experiments. The last paper from the groups of Mark Welland and Chris Dobson at Cambridge is at an intermediate scale and relies on a careful analysis of the shapes of amyloid fibrils to reveal their mechanical properties. It looks like a nice paper, but after their Science paper I had a look at some of their previous work and was especially impressed with a previous paper in PRL that I would encourage you to check out if you liked the paper that Ketan highlighted. Here’s the abstract page.