Research ArticleBIOPHYSICS

Microscale spatial heterogeneity of protein structural transitions in fibrin matrices

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Science Advances  08 Jul 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 7, e1501778
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501778


Following an injury, a blood clot must form at the wound site to stop bleeding before skin repair can occur. Blood clots must satisfy a unique set of material requirements; they need to be sufficiently strong to resist pressure from the arterial blood flow but must be highly flexible to support large strains associated with tissue movement around the wound. These combined properties are enabled by a fibrous matrix consisting of the protein fibrin. Fibrin hydrogels can support large macroscopic strains owing to the unfolding transition of α-helical fibril structures to β sheets at the molecular level, among other reasons. Imaging protein secondary structure on the submicrometer length scale, we reveal that another length scale is relevant for fibrin function. We observe that the protein polymorphism in the gel becomes spatially heterogeneous on a micrometer length scale with increasing tensile strain, directly showing load-bearing inhomogeneity and nonaffinity. Supramolecular structural features in the hydrogel observed under strain indicate that a uniform fibrin hydrogel develops a composite-like microstructure in tension, even in the absence of cellular inclusions.

  • Fibrin
  • wound healing
  • secondary structure
  • CARS
  • raman
  • chemical imaging

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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