Major ampullate silk gland transcriptomes and fibre proteomes of the golden orb-weavers, Nephila plumipes and Nephila pilipes (Araneae: Nephilidae)

Whaite, A.D., et al. Major ampullate silk gland transcriptomes and fibre proteomes of the golden orb-weavers, Nephila plumipes and Nephila pilipes (Araneae: Nephilidae). PLOS One. 13(10), e0204243. 17/10/2018.

Natural spider silk is one of the world’s toughest proteinaceous materials, yet a truly biomimetic spider silk is elusive even after several decades of intense focus. In this study, Next-Generation Sequencing was utilised to produce transcriptomes of the major ampullate gland of two Australian golden orb-weavers, Nephila plumipes and Nephila pilipes, in order to identify highly expressed predicted proteins that may co-factor in the construction of the final polymer. Furthermore, proteomics was performed by liquid chromatography tandem-mass spectroscopy to analyse the natural solid silk fibre of each species to confirm highly expressed predicted proteins within the silk gland are present in the final silk product. We assembled the silk gland transcriptomes of N. plumipes and N. pilipes into 69,812 and 70,123 contigs, respectively. Gene expression analysis revealed that silk gene sequences were among the most highly expressed and we were able to procure silk sequences from both species in excess of 1,300 amino acids. However, some of the genes with the highest expression values were not able to be identified from our proteomic analysis. Proteome analysis of “reeled” silk fibres of N. plumipes and N. pilipes revealed 29 and 18 proteins, respectively, most of which were identified as silk fibre proteins. This study is the first silk gland specific transcriptome and proteome analysis for these species and will assist in the future development of a biomimetic spider silk.

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