Deformation behavior and mechanical properties of amyloid protein nanowires
M Solar and MJ Buehler, JOURNAL OF THE MECHANICAL BEHAVIOR OF BIOMEDICAL MATERIALS, 19, 43-49 (2013).
Amyloid fibril are most often associated with their pathological role in diseases like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, but they are now increasingly being considered for uses in functional engineering materials. They are among the stiffest protein fibers known but they are also rather brittle, and it is unclear how this combination of properties affects the behavior of amyloid structures at larger length scales, such as in films, wires or plaques. Using a coarse-grained model for amyloid fibrils, we study the mechanical response of amyloid nanowires and examine fundamental mechanical properties, including mechanisms of deformation and failure under tensile loading. We also explore the effect of varying the breaking strain and adhesion strength of the constituent amyloid fibrils on the properties of the larger structure. We find that deformation in the nanowires is controlled by a combination of fibril sliding and fibril failure and that there exists a transition from brittle to ductile behavior by either increasing the fibril failure strain or decreasing the strength of adhesion between fibrils. Furthermore, our results reveal that the mechanical properties of the nanowires are quite sensitive to changes in the properties of the individual fibrils, and the larger scale structures are found to be more mechanically robust than the constituent fibrils, for all cases considered. More broadly, this work demonstrates the promise of utilizing self-assembled biological building blocks in the development of hierarchical nanomaterials. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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