Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science - Biology



First Advisor

Dr. Dennis Gravatt

Second Advisor

Dr. Lindsay Porter

Third Advisor

Dr. Zeljko Radulovic

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Daniel Bennett


Defensins are small, cysteine-rich, immune related proteins described to be the most widespread family of invertebrate antimicrobial peptides. Presently, there is limited information regarding spider defensins. In this study, a new defensin peptide was described in Latrodectus geometricus, Lg-defensin. The full open reading frame was resolved using RACE and de novo assembly, followed by a bioinformatical analysis and phylogenetic alignment to determine conserved sequence patterns and structural similarities to other defensins. Next, the functionality of Lg-defensin was determined using in vitro RNA interference to assess what impact silencing had on the spider’s ability to control a gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial infection, whose level was determined via qPCR analysis. Results indicated Lg-defensin to be a highly conserved defensin with similar structure and sequence patterns to other related taxa. Additionally, Lg-defensin was found to have higher antibacterial activity towards the gram-positive bacteria in contrast to its effect on gram-negative bacteria. This is the first report regarding the completed characterization of a defensin peptide in L. geometricus and provides a basis for future research regarding Lg-defensin and its clinically relevant capabilities.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



Tell us how this article helped you.


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.