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 October 20, 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 October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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