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Chromosome mapping of dragline silk genes in the genomes of widow spiders (araneae, theridiidae)

  • Author(s): Zhao, Y
  • Ayoub, NA
  • Hayashi, CY
  • et al.
Abstract

With its incredible strength and toughness, spider dragline silk is widely lauded for its impressive material properties. Dragline silk is composed of two structural proteins, MaSp1 and MaSp2, which are encoded by members of the spidroin gene family. While previous studies have characterized the genes that encode the constituent proteins of spider silks, nothing is known about the physical location of these genes. We determined karyotypes and sex chromosome organization for the widow spiders, Latrodectus hesperus and L. geometricus (Araneae, Theridiidae). We then used fluorescence in situ hybridization to map the genomic locations of the genes for the silk proteins that compose the remarkable spider dragline. These genes included three loci for the MaSp1 protein and the single locus for the MaSp2 protein. In addition, we mapped a MaSp1 pseudogene. All the MaSp1 gene copies and pseudogene localized to a single chromosomal region while MaSp2 was located on a different chromosome of L. hesperus. Using probes derived from L. hesperus, we comparatively mapped all three MaSp1 loci to a single region of a L. geometricus chromosome. As with L. hesperus, MaSp2 was found on a separate L. geometricus chromosome, thus again unlinked to the MaSp1 loci. These results indicate orthology of the corresponding chromosomal regions in the two widow genomes. Moreover, the occurrence of multiple MaSp1 loci in a conserved gene cluster across species suggests that MaSp1 proliferated by tandem duplication in a common ancestor of L. geometricus and L. hesperus. Unequal crossover events during recombination could have given rise to the gene copies and could also maintain sequence similarity among gene copies over time. Further comparative mapping with taxa of increasing divergence from Latrodectus will pinpoint when the MaSp1 duplication events occurred and the phylogenetic distribution of silk gene linkage patterns. © 2010 Zhao et al.

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