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Nat Genet. 2017 Jun;49(6):895-903. doi: 10.1038/ng.3852. Epub 2017 May 1.

The Nephila clavipes genome highlights the diversity of spider silk genes and their complex expression.

Author information

1
Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
2
Department of Genetics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
3
Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
4
Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, California, USA.
5
Genomics and Computational Biology Graduate Group, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
6
Divisions of Perinatal Biology and Immunobiology, Perinatal Institute, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
7
Biological Institute, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
8
Department of Biology, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA.

Abstract

Spider silks are the toughest known biological materials, yet are lightweight and virtually invisible to the human immune system, and they thus have revolutionary potential for medicine and industry. Spider silks are largely composed of spidroins, a unique family of structural proteins. To investigate spidroin genes systematically, we constructed the first genome of an orb-weaving spider: the golden orb-weaver (Nephila clavipes), which builds large webs using an extensive repertoire of silks with diverse physical properties. We cataloged 28 Nephila spidroins, representing all known orb-weaver spidroin types, and identified 394 repeated coding motif variants and higher-order repetitive cassette structures unique to specific spidroins. Characterization of spidroin expression in distinct silk gland types indicates that glands can express multiple spidroin types. We find evidence of an alternatively spliced spidroin, a spidroin expressed only in venom glands, evolutionary mechanisms for spidroin diversification, and non-spidroin genes with expression patterns that suggest roles in silk production.

PMID:
28459453
DOI:
10.1038/ng.3852
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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