The whole genome sequence of the social velvet spider and a draft genome sequence of the tarantula are reported this week in Nature Communications. The work provides insight into genes and proteins involved in venom and silk production and suggests that this information could be used to further the pharmacological and biomaterial applications of venom and silk, respectively.
Spiders play a significant predatory role in the ecosystem. Their use of toxic venom and silk webs to subdue and trap their prey enables them to efficiently capture prey with minimum energy costs. Spiders have therefore become a key species for controlling insect and pest populations. To understand more about these predators, Trine Bilde and colleagues sequenced the genome and transcriptome of the African social velvet spider, Stegodyphus mimosarum, and the Brazilian white-knee tarantula, Acanthoscurria geniculate, and carry out an in-depth analysis of venom and silk proteins.
The study identifies new proteins that may be involved in the processing and activation of toxins in venom and provides new insights into the composition of spider silk proteins. These findings could be used to further the use of venom in the production of neurotoxins and insecticides and may facilitate future research into the use of these silk proteins for biomaterial applications.