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Effects of water on molecular and supramolecular structure and mechanical properties of fibrous protein materials

Member of the SPP1420 from 2013 till 2015


The functionality and properties of biological materials is controlled by their hierarchical organization (ranging from the molecular up to macroscopic length scales) and specific environmental conditions (humidity, ionic force, pH, etc.). In this context, fibrous structural proteins (FSPs), such as collagen, silk and keratin show outstanding mechanical performance mainly due to the optimization of their structure and interactions on many levels of hierarchy. It is well known that water plays a crucial role in stabilizing secondary and tertiary structure of FSPs and has huge effect on their final mechanical properties (strength, toughness, elasticity etc.). However, it is not yet understood the mechanism with which water shapes the molecular and supramolecular interactions and how this contributes to the macroscopic material properties. The main goal of this project is to understand the relationship between the level of hydration and biological structure and properties at the molecular and supramolecular scale and correlate these features to the macroscopic performance of FSPs. In order to assess material at various length scales we plan to combine in situ synchrotron X-ray and polarized Raman scattering in controlled environmental conditions (temperature and humidity). To provide reliable quantitative information characterization methods, as well as external stimuli (mechanical and thermal), will be employed in situ and simultaneously. Such a setup will be a first of its kind in Germany. Concepts distilled from this study will provide an unprecedented base to develop a detailed models of the interplay between water and molecular and nanoscopic structures in relation to the mechanical performance. Underlying mechanisms will be eventually incorporated into novel artificial materials pointing to new options for biomimetic and biomedical applications.




  • Masic A, Bertinetti L, Schuetz R, Chang SW, Metzger H, Buehler MJ, Fratzl P, Osmotic pressure induced tensile forces in tendon collagen, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 2015, 6: 5942. IF 11.470
  • Latza V, Guerette PA, Ding D, Amini S, Kumar A, Schmidt I, Keating S, Oxman N, Weaver JC, Fratzl P, Miserez A, Masic A (corresponding author), Multi-Scale Thermal Stability of a Hard Thermoplastic Protein-Based Material, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 2015, 6, 8313.
  • Schmitt CNZ, Winters A, Bertinetti L, Masic A, Strauch P, Harrington MJ, Mechanical homeostasis of a biological coating in response to metal exchange, JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY INTERFACE, 2015, 12, (110).
  • Bertinetti L, Masic A (equal contribution), Schuetz R, Barbetta A, Zemb T, Seidt B, Wagermaier W, Fratzl P, Osmotically driven tensile stress in collagen-based mineralized tissues, JMBBM, 2015, in press, IF 3.048
  • Schuetz R, Fix D, Schade U, Aziz EF, Timofeeva N, Weinkamer R, Masic A (corresponding author), Anisotropy in Bone Demineralization Revealed by Polarized Far-IR Spectroscopy, MOLECULES, 2015, 20: 5835-5850. IF 2.095
  • Masic A (corresponding author), Weaver JC, Large area sub-micron chemical imaging of magnesium in biogenic calcites, Journal of Structural Biology, 2015, 189(3):269-75, IF 3.361
  • Schrof S, Galvis L, Varga P, Raum K, Masic A (corresponding author), 3D Orientation Mapping of Collagen in Human Osteonal Lamellae using Polarized Raman Spectroscopy, JOURNAL OF STRUCTURAL BIOLOGY, 2014, 187, 266-275. IF 3.361
  • Guerette PA, Hoon S, Ding D, Amini S, Masic A, Vydianathan R, Venkatesh B, Weaver JC, Miserez A, Nanoconfined β-sheets mechanically reinforce the supra-biomolecular network of robust squid sucker ring teeth, ACS NANO, 2014, 8, 7170-7179, IF 12.062
  • Cha HJ, Kim BJ, Oh D, Kim S, Seo JH, Hwang DS, Masic A, Han DK, Mussel-mimetic protein-based adhesive hydrogel, BIOMACROMOLECULES, 2014, accepted, IF 5.371
  • Bennet M, Akiva A, Faivre D, Malkinson G, Yaniv K, Abdelilah-Seyfried S, Fratzl P, Masic A (corresponding author), Simultaneous fluorescence-Raman imaging of bone mineralization in living zebrafish larvae, BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL, 2014, 106, 4, IF 3.668
  • Shahrouz A, Masic A, Bertinetti L, Teguh J , Herrin J, Zhu X,  Su H, Miserez A, Strengthening of Stomatopod Raptorial Appendages by Fluorapatite/Calcium Sulfate Interfacial Relationships and Preferred Crystal Orientation, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 2014, 5, 3187, IF 11.470.
  • Guerette P, Tay G, Hoon S, Loke JJ, Hermawan A, Schmitt C, Harrington M, Masic, A, Karunaratne A, Gupta H,  Tan KS, Schwaighofer A, Nowak C, Miserez A, Integrative and comparative analysis of coiled-coil based marine snail egg cases - template for biomimetic elastomers, BIOMATERIALS SCIENCE, 2014, 2 (5), 710-722.
  • Guerette PA, Hoon S, Seow Y, Raida M, Masic A, Wong FT, Ho VHB, Kong KW, Demirel MC, Pena-Francesch A, Amini S, Tay GZ, Ding D, Miserez A, Accelerating the design of biomimetic materials by integrating RNA-seq with proteomics and materials science, NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY, 2013, 31, 908-915, IF 32.438
  • Hwang DS, Masic A, Prajatelistia E, Iordachescu M, Waite JH, Marine hydroid perisarc: A chitin- and melanin-reinforced composite with DOPA-iron(III) complexes, ACTA BIOMATERIALIA, 9, 8110-8117, SEP 2013, IF 5.093
  • Galvis L, Dunlop JWC, Duda G, Fratzl P, Masic A (corresponding author), Polarized Raman Anisotropic Response of Collagen in Tendon: Towards 3D Orientation Mapping of Collagen in Tissues, PLOS ONE, 8, 5, MAY 2013, IF 3.730
  • Schuetz R, Bertinetti L, Rabin I, Fratzl P, Masic A (corresponding author), Quantifying degradation of collagen in ancient manuscripts: the case of the Dead Sea Temple Scroll, ANALYST, 138, 19, 5594-5599, 2013, IF 3.969
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