Scientists map the spider genome

Last Updated: Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 20:48

London: There`s a `Spiderman` in all of us! Researchers have for the first time sequenced the genome of the spider and found that humans share certain genomic similarities with the creepy-crawlies.

Researchers at Denmark`s Aarhus University and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) worked with two types of spiders, representing two of the three main groups in the spider family. One of these is a small velvet spider and the other is a tarantula.

The researchers succeeded in sequencing the velvet spider`s genome, while there are still some unsolved gaps in the genetic map of the tarantula.
"The idea was that, by comparing their genetic makeup, we`d try to see whether we could say anything in general terms about what makes a spider a spider," said Kristian W Sanggaard from Aarhus University.

However, it is almost 300 million years since the two types of spiders had a common ancestor, so the researchers could only find a limited number of similarities.

"But we found a number of genes - about two to three hundred - that have only been found in these two types of spiders and not in other organisms. They could be candidates for genes specific to spiders," said Jesper S Bechsgaard, also from Aarhus University.

Researchers also looked at the protein composition of silk and venom production in spiders.

Many researchers would like greater insight into areas such as how the spider makes its silk of thin, but incredibly strong thread, and how its venom works.
By understanding the underlying mechanisms, it is possible to convert this to industrial use in the long term, for purposes such as manufacturing biomaterials or developing medicine and pesticides.

By describing the genome, the researchers have acquired a much better tool than they previously had for studying spiders.

The researchers now intend to use the genome for further work with studies of the spider`s digestive enzymes and immune system.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

PTI

First Published: Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 20:48

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