Zoological Letters |  July 26, 2021

The balance of crystalline and amorphous regions in the fibroin structure underpins the tensile strength of bagworm silk

Author: Nobuaki Kono1*, Hiroyuki Nakamura2, Ayaka Tateishi3,4, Keiji Numata3,4, and Kazuharu Arakawa1


  • 1. Institute for Advanced Biosciences, Keio University
  • 1. Spiber Inc.
  • 1. RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science
  • 1. Department of Material Chemistry, Kyoto University

From “The balance of crystalline and amorphous regions in the fibroin structure underpins the tensile strength of bagworm silk” by Kono et al.. Licensed under CC-BY 4.0.


Protein-based materials are considered versatile biomaterials, and their biodegradability is an advantage for sustainable development. Bagworm produces strong silk for use in unique situations throughout its life stages. Rigorous molecular analyses of Eumeta variegata suggested that the particular mechanical properties of its silk are due to the coexistence of poly-A and GA motifs. However, little molecular information on closely related species is available, and it is not understood how these properties were acquired evolutionarily or whether the motif combination is a conserved trait in other bagworms. Here, we performed a transcriptome analysis of two other bagworm species (Canephora pungelerii and Bambalina sp.) belonging to the family Psychidae to elucidate the relationship between the fibroin gene and silk properties. The obtained transcriptome assemblies and tensile tests indicated that the motif combination and silk properties were conserved among the bagworms. Furthermore, our analysis showed that C. pungelerii produces extraordinarily strong silk (breaking strength of 1.4 GPa) and indicated that the cause may be the C. pungelerii -specific balance of crystalline/amorphous regions in the H-fibroin repetitive domain. This particular H-fibroin architecture may have been evolutionarily acquired to produce strong thread to maintain bag stability during the relatively long development period of Canephora species relative to other bagworms.

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Spiber’s research initiatives into novel protein materials have benefited from grants and subsidies from Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture, and Japan’s ImPACT program.