A review of recombinant spider silk and collagen bioproduction
Is it because it is Spring? I see spiders everywhere!
Our review article about the current status of microbial industrial production of recombinant spider silk has been published in this month’s issue of Discover Materials . In our article we also reviewed the status of recombinant human collagen production in microbial systems, as collagen is, in a similar way to spider silk, a protein with long repetitive amino-acid sequences that forms fibers.
The publication date almost coincided with that of the key note lecture at the BioProScale Symposium in Berlin by Prof Scheibel, one of the pioneers of microbial spider silk production. The research from Prof Scheibel’s lab is at the origin of a successful industrial-scale microbial spider silk-like producer, AM Silk.
Just in the same week our article was accepted, we saw this piece of news coming from the company Ortox in Oxford, about production of FribrOx.
“FibroFix is constructed from the fibroin protein extracted from silk produced by the domestic silk moth. The protein is formed into the smooth FibroFix implants using the same processes that spiders use when spinning their ultra-strong webs.”
Why use the domestic silk moth (silkworm) and not spiders? Collecting silk from spiders is hard work, and spiders store only a small amount of silk, ready for any eventuality of their spider lives. The fact that spiders tend to be cannibalistic adds a further challenge. Other natural silk proteins, including the silkworm fiber, cannot match the versatility and interesting mechanical properties of spider silks.
Therefore, the motivation to better understand the molecular mechanisms behind these properties led to further studies on the structure and physics of the native spider silks and the strong interest in utilizing the spider silk fibers led to the development of alternative production processes, such as recombinant processes.
In our review we focus on microbial production, but other production systems have been tested.
Recently, the Reski’s team in Freiburg University published a comprehensive review of alternative systems for spider silk production where they include production in plants and propose the use of a moss as a potentially interesting alternative for recombinant spider silk production.