Spider genomes provide insight into composition and evolution of venom and silk

Nat Commun. 2014 May 6;5:3765. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4765.


Spiders are ecologically important predators with complex venom and extraordinarily tough silk that enables capture of large prey. Here we present the assembled genome of the social velvet spider and a draft assembly of the tarantula genome that represent two major taxonomic groups of spiders. The spider genomes are large with short exons and long introns, reminiscent of mammalian genomes. Phylogenetic analyses place spiders and ticks as sister groups supporting polyphyly of the Acari. Complex sets of venom and silk genes/proteins are identified. We find that venom genes evolved by sequential duplication, and that the toxic effect of venom is most likely activated by proteases present in the venom. The set of silk genes reveals a highly dynamic gene evolution, new types of silk genes and proteins, and a novel use of aciniform silk. These insights create new opportunities for pharmacological applications of venom and biomaterial applications of silk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genome / genetics*
  • Insect Proteins / genetics*
  • Peptide Hydrolases / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Silk / genetics*
  • Spider Venoms / genetics*
  • Spiders / genetics*


  • Insect Proteins
  • Silk
  • Spider Venoms
  • Peptide Hydrolases