Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Ronald L. Koder

Subject Categories

Biophysics | Physics


Natural human elastin is found in tissue such as the lungs, arteries, and skin. This protein is formed at birth with no mechanism present to repair or supplement the initial quantity formed. As a result, the functionality and durability of elastin's elasticity is critically important. To date, the mechanics of this ability to stretch and recoil is not fully understood. This study utilizes de novo protein design to create a small library of simplistic versions of elastin-like proteins, demonstrate the elastin-like proteins, maintain elastin's functionality, and inquire into its structure using solution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).

Elastin is formed from cross-linked tropoelastin. Therefore, the first generation of designed proteins consisted of one protein that utilized homogony of interspecies tropoelastin by using three common domains, two hydrophobic and one cross-linking domains. Basic modifications were made to open the hydrophobic region and also to make the protein easier to purify and characterize.

The designed protein maintained its functionality, self-aggregating as the temperature increased. Uniquely, the protein remained self-aggregated as the temperature returned below the critical transition temperature. Self-aggregation was additionally induced by increasing salt concentrations and by modifying the pH. The protein appeared to have little secondary structure when studied with solution NMR.

These results fueled a second generation of designed elastin-like proteins. This generation contained variations designed to study the cross-linking domain, one specific hydrophobic domain, and the effect of the length of the elastin-like protein. The cross-linking domain in one variation has been significantly modified while the flanking hydrophobic domains have remained unchanged. This characterization of this protein will answer questions regarding the specificity of the homologous nature of the cross-linking domain of tropoelastin across species. A second protein has additional hydrophobic domains flanking the originally designed elastin-like protein. The characterization of this protein will answer questions regarding the functionality of longer or more hydrophobic elastin-like proteins. The final variation designed is one hydrophobic domain and the new cross-linking domain repeating several times. The characterization of this protein will answer questions regarding the specific hydrophobic domain and its functionality.