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Antimicrobial peptides and the dual immune system of the spider Cupiennius salei

English title Antimicrobial peptides and the dual immune system of the spider Cupiennius salei
Applicant Nentwig Wolfgang
Number 113681
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Abteilung Synökologie Institut für Ökologie und Evolution Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Zoology
Start/End 01.10.2006 - 30.11.2009
Approved amount 260'000.00
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All Disciplines (2)


Keywords (5)

Spider Cupiennius salei; antimicrobial peptides; immune system; venom; toxins

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
This research proposal is a continuation of our previous studies on the antimicrobial and cytolytic peptides in the hemolymph and venom of the ctenid spider Cupiennius salei.
The venom of Cupiennius salei is a cocktail of low molecular mass compounds, neurotoxic and cytolytically acting peptides and enzymes. In the last few years, we have identified several components which act together via synergistic mechanisms. One peptide enhances dramatically the neurotoxic effect of other neurotoxins and it seems that cytolytic peptides also support the efficacy of the neurotoxins by their own cytolytic activity on prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, thus facilitating the access of the neurotoxins to their molecular targets, which results in a faster and more powerful paralysis.
Usually antimicrobial peptides such as the described cytolytic peptides are discussed in a context with the immune defence of organisms. Since we found two families of cytolytic peptides in the venom, the question arose whether the immune system of the spider C. salei is based on these cupiennins or whether the hemolymph contains other antimicrobial peptides.Since in the meanwhile we have found two antimicrobial substances with unclear relationship to other organisms in the hemolymph, the questions arise as to whether C. salei possesses two independent immune systems and how they are connected or regulated.
In a first sub-project, we will continue the search for further antimicrobial peptides in hemolymph and hemocytes of the spider. We will continue with the characterisation of the first identified bactericidal peptide from the hemocytes of C. salei, which shows no similarity to other so far identified antimicrobial peptides or neurotoxins of living organisms. According to our present knowledge, it represents a structurally new peptide. In addition, we will proceed with the analysis of the encoding genes of this and further peptides and we will characterise the innate immune system in terms of peptide expression and storage.
In the second sub-project, we will purify the cytolytic cupiennin 2 peptide family from the venom of C. salei and we will characterise the mRNA as well as the genomic DNA organisation. We will also compare the expression of peptides in different organs and will assess the potential role of these peptides as a part of an adapted immune system in the venom glands.
The results of both sub-projects will give us important knowledge on the regulation, structure and function of the antimicrobial peptides and the cytolytic peptides from the hemolymph and venom of C. salei, which will in turn enable us to assess the structure of the immune system(s) of C.salei.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
127500 Host defence peptides of the innate immune system and in the venom of the spider Cupiennius salei 01.12.2009 Project funding (Div. I-III)
102138 The venom of the spider Cupiennius salei 01.10.2003 Project funding (Div. I-III)
162564 Functional and phylogenetic importance of antimicrobial peptides and enzymes in spider venoms 01.10.2015 Project funding (Div. I-III)