The nacre structure consists of laminated interlocked mineral platelets separated by nanoscale organic layers. Here, the role of close proximity of mineral to the proteins on mechanical behavior of the protein is investigated through steered molecular dynamics simulations. Our simulations indicate that energy required for unfolding protein in the proximity of mineral aragonite is several times higher than that for isolated protein in the absence of the mineral. Here, we present details of specific mechanisms which result in higher energy for protein unfolding in the proximity of mineral. At the early stage of pulling, peaks in the load-displacement (LD) plot at mineral proximity are quantitatively correlated to the interaction energy between atoms involved in the latching phenomenon of amino acid side chain to aragonite surface. Water plays an important role during mineral and protein interaction and water molecules closer to the mineral surface are highly oriented and remain rigidly attached as the protein strand is pulled. Also, the high magnitude of load for a given displacement originates from attractive interactions between the protein, protein-bound water, and mineral. This study provides an insight into mineral-protein interactions that are predominant in biological nanocomposites and also provides guidelines towards design of biomimetic nanocomposites.
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