Spider egg case core fibers: trimeric complexes assembled from TuSp1, ECP-1, and ECP-2.Biochemistry 2006; 45(11):3506-16B
Spider silk proteins are well-known for their extraordinary mechanical properties, displaying remarkable strength and toughness. In this study, matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) tandem time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometry (MS/MS) and reverse genetics were used to isolate a new cDNA sequence that encodes for a protein assembled into egg case silk from the black widow spider, Latrodectus hesperus. Analysis of the primary sequence of this protein reveals approximately 52% identity to the egg case protein 1 (ECP-1) fibroin-like family member. On the basis of the similarity in the primary sequence and expression pattern, we have named this factor egg case protein 2 (ECP-2). Alignments of ECP-1 and ECP-2 demonstrate highly conserved N termini, with 16 Cys residues found within the first 153 amino acids. Traditional ensemble repeats found within reported fibroins were poorly represented in the primary sequence of ECP-2, but scattered blocks of polyalanine were present, along with a C terminus rich in GA repeats. Reverse transcription quantitative PCR analysis showed that ECP-2 is predominantly expressed in the tubuliform gland. Relative to ECP-1, ECP-2 mRNA levels were determined to be >2-fold higher. MALDI MS/MS analysis of peptide fragments generated from the large-diameter core fiber after enzymatic digestion and acid hydrolysis demonstrated the presence of a fiber that is trimeric in nature, containing tubuliform spidroin 1 (TuSp1), ECP-1, and ECP-2. We also report an additional primary sequence for TuSp1, demonstrating that TuSp1 contains two Cys residues within a nonrepetitive N-terminal region. In combination with the distinctive protein architectures of ECP-1 and ECP-2, along with their co-localization with TuSp1 in the core fiber, our findings suggest that ECP-1 and ECP-2 play important structural roles in the egg case silk fiber.