Lateral gene transfer of a dermonecrotic toxin between spiders and bacteria

Matthew H.J. Cordes, Greta J. Binford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Motivation: Spiders in the genus Loxosceles, including the notoriously toxic brown recluse, cause severe necrotic skin lesions owing to the presence of a venom enzyme called sphingomyelinase D (SMaseD). This enzyme activity is unknown elsewhere in the animal kingdom but is shared with strains of pathogenic Corynebacteria that cause various illnesses in farm animals. The presence of the same toxic activity only in distantly related organisms poses an interesting and medically important question in molecular evolution. Results: We use superpositions of rece ntly determined structures and sequence comparisons to infer that both bacterial and spider SMaseDs originated from a common, broadly conserved domain family, the glycerophosphoryl diester phosphodiesterases. We also identify a unique sequence/structure motif present in both SMaseDs but not in the ancestral family, supporting SMaseD origin through a single divergence event in either bacteria or spiders, followed by lateral gene transfer from one lineage to the other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-268
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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