Regenerated Bombyx mori silk fibroin (RSF) is a widely recognized protein for biomedical applications; however, its hierarchical gel structure is poorly understood. In this paper, the hierarchical structure of photocrosslinked RSF and RSF-based hybrid hydrogel systems: (i) RSF/Rec1-resilin and (ii) RSF/poly(N-vinylcaprolactam (PVCL) is reported for the first time using small-angle scattering (SAS) techniques. The structure of RSF in dilute to concentrated solution to fabricated hydrogels were characterized using small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), small angle neutron scattering (SANS) and ultra-small angle neutron scattering (USANS) techniques. The RSF hydrogel exhibited three distinctive structural characteristics: (i) a Porod region in the length scale of 2 to 3 nm due to hydrophobic domains (containing β-sheets) which exhibits sharp interfaces with the amorphous matrix of the hydrogel and the solvent, (ii) a Guinier region in the length scale of 4 to 20 nm due to hydrophilic domains (containing turns and random coil), and (iii) a Porod-like region in the length scale of few micrometers due to water pores/channels exhibiting fractal-like characteristics. Addition of Rec1-resilin or PVCL to RSF and subsequent crosslinking systematically increased the nanoscale size of hydrophobic and hydrophilic domains, whereas decreased the homogeneity of pore size distribution in the microscale. The presented results have implications on the fundamental understanding of the structure–property relationship of RSF-based hydrogels.
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||International Journal of Biological Macromolecules|
|State||Published - 15 Jul 2018|
- Hierarchical structure
- Hybrid hydrogel
- Silk fibroin
- Small-angle scattering