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First-ever spider glue genes sequenced, paving way to next biomaterials breakthrough

Date: 17.6.2019 

UMBC postdoctoral fellow Sarah Stellwagen and co-author Rebecca Renberg at the Army Research Lab have published the first-ever complete sequences of two genes that allow spiders to produce glue – a sticky, modified version of spider silk that keeps a spider's prey stuck in its web.

Kredit: Marlayna Demond / UMBC.The innovative method they employed could pave the way for others to sequence more silk and glue genes, which are challenging to sequence because of their length and repetitive structure. Better understanding of these genes could move scientists closer to the next big advance in biomaterials.

Before Stellwagen and Renberg's work, which was funded by the Army Research Lab, the longest silk gene sequenced was about 20,000 base pairs. When she started this project, Stellwagen was expecting to sequence the glue genes quickly and then move on, building on what she learned from the sequence. Instead, it took her and Renberg two years just to finalize the sequence.

"It ended up being this behemoth of a gene that's more than twice as large as the previous largest silk gene," Stellwagen says. It was a long, hard road to the day she found Renberg in the lab and said, "I think our gene is 42,000 bases long. I think we finished it." And in the end, it was taking a risk on a cutting-edge technique that finally yielded the complete sequence.





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