Articles About the Structure of Gluten

The structure and properties of gluten: an elastic protein from wheat grain

Structure and Function of Gluten Proteins

Circular Dichroism and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic Analysis of Immunogenic Gluten Peptides and Their Analogs

Optical Rotatory Dispersion, Circular Dichroism, and Infrared Studies of Wheat Gluten Proteins in Various Solvents

My biggest hangup right now is interpreting what the data in these papers means and how I’d put it in a visual form. I realize it’s open for some interpretation, but I want to strive for SOME accuracy. I’m definitely going to use gluten as the medium because it has some interesting properties that make it worth utilizing to depict its structure.

Experimenting with My Medium

Gluten Project Experiment

What I’ve found by playing around with gluten is that it’s stickiest and most elastic when mixed with tap water. However, if too much water is added, the elasticity is lost and the mixture segments into smaller bits. Here it is mixed with excess water:


Solutions, Baking vs Air-Drying

One of the first things I tried was mixing it with oil (left), vinegar (second from left), some water (second form right), more water (right). Then I baked it to see what would happen (bottom). After baking, the sample with oil got really crumbly, but the others stuck to the board without issue. The variations in water quantity were the most beneficial to play around with. I’ve decided a against baking because it sort of smooths out the surface, causes some bubbling, and I don’t really like that – I’d rather have the rough texture minus the bubbles.

before_baking_IMG_0053-001 after_baking_IMG_0058-001
This picture shows the gluten with different quantities of water after they have air dried, rather than baking.


After reading this article about bread chemistry, I decided to experiment with salt water. I started out making a super concentrated salt water and mixed it with the gluten and the consistency is more granular – it’s not elastic at all. Even by diluting the salt water, the mixture just lacks elasticity when salt is involved.

Planning the Piece

I’m also trying to think of contexts, and I’m stuck in a more artistic mindset so I’m envisioning a wheat field, or the inside of a person’s intestinal tract, but I could also do something more abstract looking. Without knowing much about the structure of gluten, I’m leaning more toward the abstract layout. I want to use the stretchiness and natural shapes that emerge from pulling the gluten over the board. Maybe utilize the different textures of the gluten when mixed with excess water, little water, and/or salt water. Here’s a sketch of what I’m thinking:


I have an 8″ x 10″ cradled wood panel because the gluten adheres really well to wood and I think it’s going to be a nice surface to work on. I have tubes of watercolor paint that can be easily mixed with the water I add to the gluten, so I should have lots of flexibility with colors.


Since the gluten I’ll be working with will be hydrated, I think using blues for the “holes” and a warm color, such as orange or sienna, for the web-like part will provide some context to the piece. Below is just a sample I did to see how well the paint mixes with the gluten.


Once I get the gluten layered on the board I can come back in with paints and add in details to explain the amino acid sequences of some of it or mark out hydrogen bonds, etc.


Feedback, suggestions, whatever! Let me know what you think.

***Update 5/10****

First layer done; wet, then after drying:






image image

Update 5/23/16

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1 Response to Gluten

  1. Phil says:

    It is nice that you are using gluten to portray gluten! Your medium also highlights the traditional teamwork between wood and bread dough. Imagine trying to make a pie crust without a wooden rolling pin! I also really like the intrinsic elasticity that is coming through in your work — you are stretching my imagination. Phil

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