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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Craig Vierra

First Committee Member

Geoff Lin-Cereghino

Second Committee Member

Douglas Weiser


Belonging to the diverse order Araneae, the black widow spider Latrodectus 4 hesperus produces high-performance silks with a broad range ofbiological functions and mechanical properties. The cob weaver spider spins different fibers by using seven specialized glands located in its abdomen. Egg case silk originates from the tubuliforrn gland and to date, no proteins that participate in the assembly process of egg case silk proteins have been identified. The goal of this project was the expression, purification, and characterization of such protein products.

De novo sequencing of peptides from in-solution tryptic digestion of black widow spider dragline silk, the most studied type of silk, identified a novel cysteine-rich nonfibroin- like peptide that we named cysteine-rich component or CRC- 1. Further analysis of a large pool of nucleic acid sequences deposited in our custom eDNA database revealed 4 additional sequences with similarities to each other at the amino acid level called CRC-2, CRC-3, CRC-4, and CRC-5, suggesting a new family of proteins.

Specifically, Q-PCR analysis revealed that the CRC-5 mRNAs were predominantly expressed in the tubuliform and aggregate glands. Since the aggregate gland manufactures a more complex aqueous solution compared to the tubuliforrn gland, we focused these studies on the tubuliform gland and resultant egg case fibers. Westem blot analysis using a cross-reactive polyclonal anti-CRC-1 antiserum conoborated the presence of CRC-5 in the tubulifmm gland and egg case silk, supporting the colocalization ofTuSpl, a tubuliform gland-specific protein, and CRC-5. Thus, we have demonstrated that these two proteins are present within tubuliform silks. In vitro studies suggested that recombinant CRC-5 displayed enzymatic activity similar to a sulfhydryl oxidase. Collectively, our findings provide new insights into novel proteins that have a potential role in the silk assembly and extrusion pathway of egg case silk fibers.



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