Diversification of a single ancestral gene into a successful toxin superfamily in highly venomous Australian funnel-web spiders

BMC Genomics
Sandy S PinedaGlenn King


Spiders have evolved pharmacologically complex venoms that serve to rapidly subdue prey and deter predators. The major toxic factors in most spider venoms are small, disulfide-rich peptides. While there is abundant evidence that snake venoms evolved by recruitment of genes encoding normal body proteins followed by extensive gene duplication accompanied by explosive structural and functional diversification, the evolutionary trajectory of spider-venom peptides is less clear. Here we present evidence of a spider-toxin superfamily encoding a high degree of sequence and functional diversity that has evolved via accelerated duplication and diversification of a single ancestral gene. The peptides within this toxin superfamily are translated as prepropeptides that are posttranslationally processed to yield the mature toxin. The N-terminal signal sequence, as well as the protease recognition site at the junction of the propeptide and mature toxin are conserved, whereas the remainder of the propeptide and mature toxin sequences are variable. All toxin transcripts within this superfamily exhibit a striking cysteine codon bias. We show that different pharmacological classes of toxins within this peptide superfamily evolved under different...Continue Reading


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