Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spider Silk Researchers Uncover Treasure Trove Of Genetic Information About The Wonder Fibers

Date:
June 25, 2006
Source:
University Of California, Riverside
Summary:
Scientists seeking the genetic origins of spider orb-web silks have discovered evidence indicating that wagon-wheel shaped nets are extremely old, so old that dinosaurs may have seen them. The researchers also greatly increased the knowledge available about the genetic recipes for spider silks, a boon to silk researchers and those wishing to commercialize the wonder material.

Orb weavers, from left: deinopoidea, araneoidea.
Credit: Image courtesy of University Of California, Riverside

University of California, Riverside scientists seeking the genetic origins of spider orb-web silks, discovered evidence indicating that wagon-wheel shaped nets are extremely old, so old that dinosaurs may have seen them.

The researchers also greatly increased the knowledge available about the genetic recipes for spider silks, a boon to silk researchers and those wishing to commercialize the wonder material.

The findings appear in the June 23 edition of the journal Science in a paper titled “Silk Genes Support the Single Origin of Orb-Webs.” Post-doctoral researcher Jessica Garb co-authored the paper with Assistant Professor of Biology Cheryl Hayashi, and undergraduate students Teresa DiMauro and Victoria Vo.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Army Research Office.

The latest developments are valuable for those who wish to someday use spider silk technology for things such as light-weight body armor, biodegradable surgical sutures or high-tech, Olympic-quality athletic body suits.

Scientists have long been fascinated with spider silks because of their extraordinary properties. Some silks are one-tenth the diameter of a human hair, lighter than cotton, yet ounce for ounce up to five times tougher than steel, making spider silk a truly tantalizing material.

It’s not that there’s only one type of spider silk, but that spiders have evolved numerous types of silks, such as dragline silk, the I-beams of spider architecture, and egg case silk that is breathable, water resistant, and possibly antimicrobial.

Garb and her co-authors examined two groups of orb-weaving spiders: deinopoids, which use a “dry silk” with a Velcro-like quality to snag flying prey; and araneoids, which use a “wet silk” that has a glue-like coating to snare quarry. The scientists looked at the genes encoding deinopoid spider silk proteins by constructing silk gland expression libraries, reporting the genetic makeup of 12 new types of silk proteins.

“While there previously was information about araneoid silks, nothing was really known about deinopoid silk proteins,” Hayashi said. “These data will go a long way toward helping us understand how spider silks evolved.”

Although seemingly different, both groups of spiders share an ancestor that lived at least 136 million years ago, or around the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs ruled the planet.

“Our paper indicates that the common ancestor of these two spider groups had the key molecular elements necessary for orb-web construction, suggesting that the orb-web architecture is extremely old,” Garb said.

Hayashi and Garb credited their undergraduate students for playing a vital role in carrying out the research and data analysis needed to publish the findings.

“I’m very excited about this paper because it highlights the importance of undergraduate research,” added Hayashi. “Teresa and Victoria’s work was invaluable because it takes a team effort to accomplish this type of study.”

For DiMauro, the experience added tremendously to her education as a biochemistry major – and took up much of her summer. The two undergraduates’ work was funded through an NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) award to Hayashi.

“I never had scientific research experience before I came to work in Cheryl’s lab,” DiMauro said. “It’s exciting not just to publish, but to publish in such a prestigious journal as Science, and to have it come out just after I graduate.”

For Victoria Vo, the experience honed her book and lecture knowledge in molecular biology while giving her the opportunity to investigate important scientific questions by unlocking some of the mysteries behind the exceptional properties of spider silks.

“I began by collecting spiders on the UCR campus and performing dissections,” Vo said. “I also assisted in making cDNA libraries and locating silk genes through various screening techniques.”

Both students said they gained valuable laboratory skills and deepened their understanding of how genes and genetic engineering work through their participation in the research, which may help answer an ongoing debate in the spider silk research field.

“There has been a controversy as to whether the orb-web architecture evolved once or twice in the history of life,” Garb said. “By examining the molecular components of orb-webs, we found evidence supporting the single, ancient origin of this web type.”

This finding suggests that since the orb-web evolved, it has been modified many different ways among the more than 10,000 species of araneoid and deinopoid spiders. Some of them have developed other ways of spinning webs such as black widows, which weave tangled cob-webs, and other species that construct sheet-webs.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California, Riverside. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California, Riverside. "Spider Silk Researchers Uncover Treasure Trove Of Genetic Information About The Wonder Fibers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060625124104.htm>.
University Of California, Riverside. (2006, June 25). Spider Silk Researchers Uncover Treasure Trove Of Genetic Information About The Wonder Fibers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060625124104.htm
University Of California, Riverside. "Spider Silk Researchers Uncover Treasure Trove Of Genetic Information About The Wonder Fibers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060625124104.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins