The common house spider, Parasteatoda tepidariorum, maintains silk gene expression on sub-optimal diet
Cobweb weaving spiders and their relatives spin multiple task-specific fiber types. The unique material properties of each silk type result from differences in amino acid sequence and structure of their component proteins, primarily spidroins (spider fibrous proteins). Amino acid content and gene expression measurements of spider silks suggest some spiders change expression patterns of individual protein components in response to environmental cues. We quantified mRNA abundance of three
... ce of three spidroin encoding genes involved in prey capture in the common house spider, Parasteatoda tepidariorum (Theridiidae), fed different diets. After 10 days of acclimation to the lab on a diet of mealworms, spiders were split into three groups: (1) individuals were immediately dissected, (2) spiders were fed high-energy crickets, or (3) spiders were fed low-energy flies, for 1 month. All spiders gained mass during the acclimation period and cricket-fed spiders continued to gain mass, while fly-fed spiders either maintained or lost mass. Using quantitative PCR, we found no significant differences in the absolute or relative abundance of dragline gene transcripts, major ampullate spidroin 1 (MaSp1) and major ampullate spidroin 2 (MaSp2), among groups. In contrast, prey-wrapping minor ampullate spidroin (MiSp) gene transcripts were significantly less abundant in fly-fed than lab-acclimated spiders. However, when measured relative to Actin, cricket-fed spiders showed the lowest expression of MiSp. Our results suggest that house spiders are able to maintain silk production, even in the face of a low-quality diet.