Hemocyanin gene family evolution in spiders (Araneae), with implications for phylogenetic relationships and divergence times in the infraorder Mygalomorphae

Gene. 2013 Jul 25;524(2):175-86. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2013.04.037. Epub 2013 Apr 28.


Hemocyanins are multimeric copper-containing hemolymph proteins involved in oxygen binding and transport in all major arthropod lineages. Most arachnids have seven primary subunits (encoded by paralogous genes a-g), which combine to form a 24-mer (4×6) quaternary structure. Within some spider lineages, however, hemocyanin evolution has been a dynamic process with extensive paralog duplication and loss. We have obtained hemocyanin gene sequences from numerous representatives of the spider infraorders Mygalomorphae and Araneomorphae in order to infer the evolution of the hemocyanin gene family and estimate spider relationships using these conserved loci. Our hemocyanin gene tree is largely consistent with the previous hypotheses of paralog relationships based on immunological studies, but reveals some discrepancies in which paralog types have been lost or duplicated in specific spider lineages. Analyses of concatenated hemocyanin sequences resolved deep nodes in the spider phylogeny and recovered a number of clades that are supported by other molecular studies, particularly for mygalomorph taxa. The concatenated data set is also used to estimate dates of higher-level spider divergences and suggests that the diversification of extant mygalomorphs preceded that of extant araneomorphs. Spiders are diverse in behavior and respiratory morphology, and our results are beneficial for comparative analyses of spider respiration. Lastly, the conserved hemocyanin sequences allow for the inference of spider relationships and ancient divergence dates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Duplication
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Hemocyanins / genetics*
  • Multigene Family*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Spiders / classification
  • Spiders / genetics*
  • Time Factors


  • Hemocyanins