Hanging by a Thread: Using High Fidelity Long-Read Sequencing to Uncover the Genomic Basis of Insect Silk

C.E. Credits: P.A.C.E. CE Florida CE


Silk is essential to the life histories of more than 800,000 species across the arthropod tree of life. Humans have harnessed the ability of a handful of these for use in the sericulture industry. However, little to nothing is known about the genomic basis of this remarkable biomaterial for the vast majority of silk-spinning species. Efforts focused on uncovering the genomic basis of silk fibers have historically been hindered by the inability to sequence and assemble the large, repetitive regions of the genome that encode for silk proteins. Recent advances in DNA sequencing, e.g., high fidelity long-read sequencing, have revolutionized our ability to sequence and assemble high-quality genomes at an unprecedented scale. Here I discuss these advances and share how this new technology has allowed us to uncover hidden variation in silk genes across insects and spiders.

Learning Objectives:

1. Discuss the differences between short-read sequencing and long-read sequencing.

2. Explain why long-read sequencing is essential to repetitive regions of the genome.

3. Explain why assembling both haplotypes of a diploid species is essential to understanding the true variation in a genome.