Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mapping the spider genome: Surprising similarities to humans

Date:
May 7, 2014
Source:
Aarhus University
Summary:
For the first time ever, a group of researchers has sequenced the genome of the spider. This knowledge provides a much more qualified basis for studying features of the spider. It also shows that humans share certain genomic similarities with spiders. However, the sequencing has far greater significance for our future understanding of the spider's special properties. The researchers worked with two types of spiders, representing two of the three main groups in the spider family. One of these is a small velvet spider and the other is a tarantula.

The velvet spider’s genome has now been mapped. This image shows a group of social velvet spiders jointly killing their prey.
Credit: Peter Gammelby, Aarhus University

The fact that the eight-legged creepy spider in some ways resembles humans is one of the surprising conclusions after researchers at Aarhus University and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) succeeded in sequencing its genome.

However, it is more a discovery on an awesome scale. The sequencing has far greater significance for our future understanding of the spider's special properties.

"In brief, we've acquired a tool for everyone interested in spiders," say Kristian W. Sanggaard and Jesper S. Bechsgaard, Aarhus University. Together with Xiaodong Fang, BGI, they are the first authors of the study, which has been published in Nature Communications. By describing the spider genome, the researchers have roughly speaking drawn up its genetic map. This map can be used in future to navigate to and delve into different areas of the spider's functions -- which will now be easier to describe.

What is a spider?

The researchers worked with two types of spiders, representing two of the three main groups in the spider family. One of these is a small velvet spider and the other is a tarantula.

The researchers succeeded in sequencing the velvet spider's genome, while there are still some unsolved gaps in the genetic map of the tarantula.

"The idea was that, by comparing their genetic makeup, we'd try to see whether we could say anything in general terms about what makes a spider a spider," says Kristian W. Sanggaard. However, it is almost 300 million years since the two types of spiders had a common ancestor, so the researchers could only find a limited number of similarities. "But we found a number of genes -- about two to three hundred -- that have only been found in these two types of spiders and not in other organisms. They could be candidates for genes specific to spiders," says Jesper S. Bechsgaard.

From overview to insight

The researchers were not content with simply mapping the spider genome. They also looked at the protein composition of two of the most interesting areas of the 'crawly cousins' -- silk and venom production. By including the proteins, they did not restrict themselves to providing a map, but they also filled in details on two specific points. James Watson, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for describing the structure of the DNA strand, called genes the 'script' and proteins the 'actors'. By describing the proteins, the researchers thus demonstrated so to speak that their script works. Or -- to keep to the map analogy -- that the genetic map actually leads in the right direction. This is one of the only studies in which the proteins are described along with the genome. This was possible because the Aarhus researchers have some of the most advanced mass spectrometry equipment in the world for sequencing large numbers of proteins.

We can learn from spiders

The spider is a fantastic hunter. With the aid of its web, it can catch prey that are several times larger than itself, and it can also use its venom to subsequently kill the prey. Many researchers all over the world would like greater insight into areas such as how it makes its silk of thin, but incredibly strong thread, and how its venom works. By understanding the underlying mechanisms, we will possibly be able to convert this to industrial use in the long term, for purposes such as manufacturing biomaterials or developing medicine and pesticides. By describing the genome, the researchers have acquired a much better tool than they previously had for studying spiders. "People can select an aspect or feature of the spider they're interested in, and then utilise the 'genetic map' we published and which we ourselves have used to study silk and venom. This provides completely new opportunities for spider researchers," say the two Aarhus researchers. They personally intend to use the genome for further work with studies of the spider's digestive enzymes and immune system.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Aarhus University. The original article was written by Anne-Mette Siem. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kristian W. Sanggaard, Jesper S. Bechsgaard, Xiaodong Fang, Jinjie Duan, Thomas F. Dyrlund, Vikas Gupta, Xuanting Jiang, Ling Cheng, Dingding Fan, Yue Feng, Lijuan Han, Zhiyong Huang, Zongze Wu, Li Liao, Virginia Settepani, Ida B. Thψgersen, Bram Vanthournout, Tobias Wang, Yabing Zhu, Peter Funch, Jan J. Enghild, Leif Schauser, Stig U. Andersen, Palle Villesen, Mikkel H Schierup, Trine Bilde, Jun Wang. Spider genomes provide insight into composition and evolution of venom and silk. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4765

Cite This Page:

Aarhus University. "Mapping the spider genome: Surprising similarities to humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507105031.htm>.
Aarhus University. (2014, May 7). Mapping the spider genome: Surprising similarities to humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507105031.htm
Aarhus University. "Mapping the spider genome: Surprising similarities to humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507105031.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) — Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
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