Structure and function of the silk production pathway in the spider Nephila edulis

Int J Biol Macromol. Mar-Apr 1999;24(2-3):243-9. doi: 10.1016/s0141-8130(98)00095-6.


Our observations on the major ampullate gland of the spider Nephila edulis indicate that the exceptionally tough and strong core and coat composite structure of the dragline thread is formed by the co-drawing of two feedstocks through a single die. The cuticle that lines the gland's duct has the structure of an advanced hollow fibre dialysis membrane and is thought to facilitate a rapid removal of water and change in ionic composition involved in the spinning process. A structure previously termed the 'valve' is thought to advance the broken thread and act as a pump to restart spinning after the accidental internal rupture of a thread. Together, these observations indicate that the spider silk production pathway is highly optimised for the production of silk threads and shows considerable biomimetic potential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Insect Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Insect Proteins / chemistry*
  • Insect Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Silk
  • Spiders / anatomy & histology
  • Spiders / physiology*
  • Spiders / ultrastructure


  • Insect Proteins
  • Silk
  • Peroxidase