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Dyed In The Silkworm: Researchers Develop Novel Way To Produce Colored Silk

Date:
March 15, 1999
Source:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Summary:
In the March 1 issue of Genes & Development, Hajime Mori and colleagues at the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Kyoto, Japan report that they have developed a technique to produce genetically altered, green fluorescent silk fibers that are spun by the silkworm. The development of an insect system to produce foreign proteins has significant potential applications for silk or other economically important proteins.

In the March 1 issue of Genes & Development, Hajime Mori and colleagues at the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Kyoto, Japan report that they have developed a technique to produce genetically altered, green fluorescent silk fibers that are spun by the silkworm. The development of an insect system to produce foreign proteins has significant potential applications for silk or other economically important proteins.

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Silkworms, or more precisely, the larvae of the moth Bombyx mori, spin silk to form a cocoon in which they will develop into moths. Mori's group took an approach in which they infected the silkworm larvae with a genetically engineered insect virus that carried an altered version of a silk protein. They fused the gene encoding the light chain of the fibroin protein -- a major protein component of silk -- to the gene encoding the green fluorescent protein from jellyfish. After the virus infects the larval cells, the virus embeds itself into the silkworm's DNA. Through a process called homologous recombination, the silkworm's natural fibroin gene was replaced with the new altered version. Remarkably, when ultraviolet light is shone on the silk glands of these invected larvae, the glands glow with an eerie green color! The development of this technique opens the door for genetic researchers to engineer silk proteins and reintroduce them into moths that can, in turn, produce genetically altered silk. This approach also has potential economic applications.

Theoretically, such a protein-producing insect could be used to produce important proteins, such as the spider silk protein spidroin, which has potential industrial uses ranging from the fibers in bullet-proof vests to parachutes.

This work was supported by Enhancement of Center of Excellence Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology, Science and Technology Agency, Japan.The first author Masafumi Yamao was supported by the Research Fellowships of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists.

Genes & Development is a top-ranked primary research journal published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. The journal publishes research papers and review articles that cover the spectrum of topics in the life sciences. Genes & Development is on the Web and offers full-text access at http://www.genesdev.org.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is a private, nonprofit basic research and educational institution with programs focusing on cancer, neurobiology and plant genetics. Located on the north shore of Long Island, 35 miles from Manhattan, the Laboratory was founded in 1890 as a field station for the study of evolution. It has since developed into a world leader in cancer and molecular biology research. Further information about the Laboratory can be found at http://www.cshl.org.

The reference for the paper is: Masafumi Yamao, Nagakuzu Katayama, Hiroshi Nakazawa, Minoru Yamakawa, Yoshiyuki Hayashi, Saburo Hara, Kaeko Kamei, and Hajime Mori. Gene targeting in the silkworm by use of a baculovirus. Genes & Dev. 13: 511-516.


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The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Dyed In The Silkworm: Researchers Develop Novel Way To Produce Colored Silk." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 March 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990315081219.htm>.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (1999, March 15). Dyed In The Silkworm: Researchers Develop Novel Way To Produce Colored Silk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990315081219.htm
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Dyed In The Silkworm: Researchers Develop Novel Way To Produce Colored Silk." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990315081219.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

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