Unraveling the Design Principles of Black Widow’s Gumfoot Glue
Prey capture adhesives produced by web-building spiders have intrigued humans for many years and provide important insights to develop adhesives that work in humid environments. These humidity-responsive glues are laid down by spiders in various types of webs, primarily orb webs and cobwebs. The formation and function of viscid glue in the capture spirals of orb webs is well-studied compared to the vertically aligned gumfoot glue strands in cobwebs. While the glue droplets in cobwebs contain some peptides, they act as viscoelastic liquids, rather than viscoelastic solids, and the cause of glue stickiness is poorly understood. However, the recent discovery of glycoproteins and hygroscopic salts in the gumfoot adhesives brings a new perspective to explain the mechanism of adhesion of these microscopic droplets. In this chapter, we summarize the current state of our understanding of the chemical composition, morphology, and mechanism of adhesion of gumfoot glue threads. Additionally, we present molecular evidence that both salts and glycoproteins are important for strong adhesion in a humid environment and show how understanding the mechanism of cobweb spider adhesives will help in designing materials that are active and functional in high humidity.
KeywordsSilk Fiber Organic Salt Black Widow Major Ampullate Hygroscopic Salt
The authors would like to express gratitude to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for funding the NMR studies on gumfoot silk, Bill Hsuing for the help in the collection of major ampullate silk from silk glands of Black Widow, Sarah Han and Dr. Matjaz Gregoric for pictures in Fig.13.1 and Fig.13.3 respectively and Dr. Wei Chen for the assistance in solid-state NMR experiments.
- Blasingame E, Tuton-Blasingame T, Larkin L, Falick AM, Zhao L, Fong J, Vaidyanathan V, Visperas A, Geurts P, Hu X, La Mattina C, Vierra C (2009) Pyriform spidroin 1, a novel member of the silk gene family that anchors dragline silk fibers in attachment discs of the black widow spider, Latrodectus hesperus. J Biol Chem 284:29097–29108CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Chamberlin R, Ivie W (1935) The black widow spider and its varieties in the United States. Bull Univ Utah 25:1–29Google Scholar
- Foelix RF (1982) Biology of spiders. Harvard University Press, HarvardGoogle Scholar
- Kelly S (1989) The chemical composition of the defensive secretion of the spider Latrodectus mactans (Fabricius). MS Thesis, University of New HampshireGoogle Scholar
- Kovoor J (1977) Données histochimiques sur les glandes séricigènes de la veuve noire Latrodectus mactans Fabr. (Araneae, Theridiidae). Ann Sci Nat Zool Biol Anim 12e Sér 19:63–87Google Scholar
- Kovoor J (1987) Comparative structure and histochemistry of silk-producing organs in arachnids. In: Nentwig W (ed) Ecophysiology of spiders. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
- Schulz S (1999) Structural diversity of surface lipids from spiders. In: Diederichsen U, Lindhorst TK, Westermann B, Wessjohann LA (eds) Bioorganic chemistry: highlights and new aspects. Wiley-VCH, WeinheimGoogle Scholar
- Vasanthavada K, Hu X, Tuton-Blasingame T, Hsia Y, Sampath S, Pacheco R, Freeark J, Falick AM, Tang S, Fong J, Kohler K, La Mattina-Hawkins C, Vierra C (2012) Spider glue proteins have distinct architectures compared with traditional spidroin family members. J Biol Chem 287:35986–35999CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar