Royal Society Publishing

Elastin: a representative ideal protein elastomer

D. W. Urry, T. Hugel, M. Seitz, H. E. Gaub, L. Sheiba, J. Dea, J. Xu, T. Parker


During the last half century, identification of an ideal (predominantly entropic) protein elastomer was generally thought to require that the ideal protein elastomer be a random chain network. Here, we report two new sets of data and review previous data. The first set of new data utilizes atomic force microscopy to report single-chain force-extension curves for (GVGVP)251 and (GVGIP)260, and provides evidence for single-chain ideal elasticity. The second class of new data provides a direct contrast between low-frequency sound absorption (0.1-10 kHz) exhibited by random-chain network elastomers and by elastin protein-based polymers. Earlier composition, dielectric relaxation (1-1000 MHz), thermoelasticity, molecular mechanics and dynamics calculations and thermodynamic and statistical mechanical analyses are presented, that combine with the new data to contrast with random-chain network rubbers and to detail the presence of regular non-random structural elements of the elastin-based systems that lose entropic elastomeric force upon thermal denaturation. The data and analyses affirm an earlier contrary argument that components of elastin, the elastic protein of the mammalian elastic fibre, and purified elastin fibre itself contain dynamic, non-random, regularly repeating structures that exhibit dominantly entropic elasticity by means of a damping of internal chain dynamics on extension.

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