Changes in composition of spider orb web sticky droplets with starvation and web removal, and synthesis of sticky droplet compounds


The sticky spiral of araneoid spider orb webs consists of silk fibers coated with adhesive droplets. The droplets contain a variety of low-molecular-mass compounds (LMM). Within a species, a fairly consistent ratio of LMM is often observed, but substantial variability can exist. To gain insight into factors influencing LMM composition, spiders of three araneid species were starved and LMM from their webs were analyzed for changes in composition. To determine if these changes were consistent with the spider's ability to synthesize the different organic LMM, synthetic capacities were estimated following the feeding of radiolabeled metabolites. Some changes in droplet composition were broadly consistent with differing synthetic capacities: molar percentages of less readily synthesized compounds (e.g. choline, isethionate,N-acetyltaurine) typically declined with starvation, at least during a portion of the imposed fast, while more readily synthesized compounds (e.g. GABamide, glycine) tended to increase. Most striking was the apparent partial substitution of N-acetylputrescine by the more readily synthesized GABamide in fastingArgiope trifasciata. However, departures from expected compositional shifts demonstrated that synthetic capacity alone does not adequately predict sticky droplet compositional shifts with starvation. Moreover, feeding controls exhibited some changes in composition similar to starving spiders. As the webs of both feeding and starving spiders were removed for chemical analysis and could not be recycled, the loss of LMM contained in these webs likely contributed to similarities between treatments. In addition, feeding spiders molted, oviposited and/or built heavier webs. The added metabolic demands of these activities may have contributed to changes in composition similar to those resulting from starvation.


Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences

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Journal of Experimental Biology


Company of Biologists

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