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Mapping the spider genome
Date:5/7/2014

ome. 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.
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Contact: Jesper Smærup Bechsgaard
jesper.bechsgaard@biology.au.dk
45-61-68-43-34
Aarhus University
Source:Eurekalert  

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