Toward Spider Glue: Long Read Scaffolding for Extreme Length and Repetitious Silk Family Genes AgSp1 and AgSp2 with Insights into Functional Adaptation.G3 (Bethesda). 2019 06 05; 9(6):1909-1919.G
An individual orb weaving spider can spin up to seven different types of silk, each with unique functions and material properties. The capture spiral silk of classic two-dimensional aerial orb webs is coated with an amorphous glue that functions to retain prey that get caught in a web. This unique modified silk is partially comprised of spidroins (spider fibroins) encoded by two members of the silk gene family. The glue differs from solid silk fibers as it is a viscoelastic, amorphic, wet material that is responsive to environmental conditions. Most spidroins are encoded by extremely large, highly repetitive genes that cannot be sequenced using short read technology alone, as the repetitive regions are longer than read length. We sequenced for the first time the complete genomic Aggregate Spidroin 1 (AgSp1) and Aggregate Spidroin 2 (AgSp2) glue genes of orb weaving spider Argiope trifasciata using error-prone long reads to scaffold for high accuracy short reads. The massive coding sequences are 42,270 bp (AgSp1) and 20,526 bp (AgSp2) in length, the largest silk genes currently described. The majority of the predicted amino acid sequence of AgSp1 consists of two similar but distinct motifs that are repeated ∼40 times each, while AgSp2 contains ∼48 repetitions of an AgSp1-similar motif, interspersed by regions high in glutamine. Comparisons of AgSp repetitive motifs from orb web and cobweb spiders show regions of strict conservation followed by striking diversification. Glues from these two spider families have evolved contrasting material properties in adhesion (stickiness), extensibility (stretchiness), and elasticity (the ability of the material to resume its native shape), which we link to mechanisms established for related silk genes in the same family. Full-length aggregate spidroin sequences from diverse species with differing material characteristics will provide insights for designing tunable bio-inspired adhesives for a variety of unique purposes.