Study untangles the silky spider web

November 25th, 2007 - 11:31 am ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 25 (ANI): A study has revealed that the aciniform glands in web-making spiders are also responsible for the silkiness of the web, challenging the belief that they do not play any role in the silk making process.

Web-making spiders employ a host of silk glands to synthesize a variety of silk filaments with different mechanical properties.

However, it is widely believed that the aciniform glands are one such silk factory, but until now there has been no hard evidence linking aciniform-derived proteins and silk.

Craig Vierra and colleagues found that the aciniform gland in the Black Widow manufactures and extrudes a previously unidentified protein that is a component of multiple types of silk.

The researchers used mass spectroscopy to analyze the protein content of two types of silk: the variety used for egg cases and the one used to wrap up prey. In both types they uncovered a thin protein fiber with a similar structure to another known silk protein called AcSp1.

After examining the expression of this new protein, termed AcSp1-like protein, in different silk glands, they found that mRNA levels were present at 1000-fold higher concentration in the aciniform gland compared to other glands.

The researchers noted that this finding is intriguing since it shows that aciniform silk fibers are not made for one specific task but rather get integrated into multiple silk types.

They are planing to further characterize the mechanics of aciniform silk, but they suggested that this thin fiber acts like twine to hold thicker silk fibers together. (ANI)

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