Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biologists Unravel The Genetic Secrets Of Black Widow Spider Silk

Date:
June 14, 2007
Source:
University of California - Riverside
Summary:
Biologists have identified the genes, and determined the DNA sequences, for two key proteins in the "dragline silk" of the black widow spider -- an advance that may lead to a variety of new materials for industrial, medical and military uses.

Female black widow spider (Latrodectus hesperus) walking on web made of dragline silk.
Credit: Mark Chappell, UCR

Biologists at the University of California, Riverside have identified the genes, and determined the DNA sequences, for two key proteins in the "dragline silk" of the black widow spider -- an advance that may lead to a variety of new materials for industrial, medical and military uses.

The black widow spider's dragline silk is a standout compared to other spider silks because of its superior strength and extensibility, a combination which enables black widow dragline silk to absorb enormous amounts of energy. These properties suggest that synthetically-produced silk might find applications as diverse as lightweight super-strong body armor, components of medical devices and high-tech athletic attire.

The researchers -- Associate Professor of Biology Cheryl Hayashi, postdoctoral researchers Nadia Ayoub and Jessica Garb, and graduate students Robin Tinghitella and Matthew Collin -- report their findings in the June 13 online edition of the journal PLoS ONE.  In the article, they describe their work to identify the genes encoding the two key proteins, named MaSp1 and MaSp2, and determine the genes' complete DNA sequences. The UCR Office of Technology Commercialization has filed a patent application on the gene sequences.

There are currently no products on the market based on the dragline silk of spiders. "There's nothing quite as good yet as natural dragline silk, but we should get a lot closer now that we have the full genetic recipe," Hayashi said.

With the ingredients and their genetic blueprint now known, it may be possible to synthetically produce the proteins by inserting the genetic sequences into host organisms such as bacteria, plants or animals, she said. Once the pure proteins are harvested, a manufacturing challenge will be spinning them into silk fibers that have the same remarkable properties as spider spun silk. But several advances have recently been made in artificial spinning methods.

When spiders manufacture dragline silk, their silk glands produce a "gooey" slurry of the proteins needed, which are transported to the spinneret through a duct where the proteins interact and align to form the silk strands.

"The production of artificial silk is not quite there yet," Hayashi said. "Now, with the full length genes known and as we learn more about theses two proteins, hopefully we will have a better shot at mimicking nature."

Spider silks have some of the best mechanical properties of any known natural fibers, thus they are being considered in the improvement of a variety of products including surgical microsutures and specialty ropes. Dragline silk -- just one type of the seven different silks that an individual spider produces -- are used by spiders as the structural foundation of their webs and to support their body weight as they move about. The dragline silk of black widows is one of the strongest and toughest spider silks identified thus far.


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. "Biologists Unravel The Genetic Secrets Of Black Widow Spider Silk." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070613071233.htm>.
University of California - Riverside. (2007, June 14). Biologists Unravel The Genetic Secrets Of Black Widow Spider Silk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070613071233.htm
University of California - Riverside. "Biologists Unravel The Genetic Secrets Of Black Widow Spider Silk." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070613071233.htm (accessed September 14, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — New research has shown that the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, might have been just as well suited for life in the water as on land. Video provided by Newsy
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