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Department of Molecular Biology

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources


Dr. Randy Lewis

Department of Molecular Biology
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY 82071

Research Statement

Spiders can produce up to six different kinds of silk with very different mechanical properties.  These can range from strengths greater than Kevlar to elasticity greater than nylon.  We have cloned and sequenced genes for the proteins that make up five of these silks.  Our current research is focused in three areas.  The first is to determine the sequence and likely structure of the proteins for the remaining silk as well as the glue that is used in the web.  Second, we are creating synthetic genes that we expect to have properties different from the natural silks.  Third we are producing these silk proteins in bacteria and other systems (such as alfalfa and silkworms) to make them into fibers and determine their mechanical properties.   We can then repeat the process to make new proteins with improved properties.  We also have a project on chronic wasting disease (CWD) in collaboration with the Veterinary Science Dept. and Wyoming and Colorado Game and Fish Depts. to determine how the disease is spread.  Our part is developing an assay that can detect very low levels of the infective protein.

Recent publications

  • (1990) Xu, M. and Lewis, R.V. Structure of a Protein Superfiber: Spider Dragline Silk  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 87, 7120-24.

  • (1992) Hinman, M.B. and Lewis, R.V.  Isolation of a Clone Encoding a Second Dragline Silk Fibroin, Nephila Clavipes Dragline Silk is a Two Protein Fiber   J.Biol. Chem 267: 19320-19324.

  • (1994) Stauffer, S., Cougill, S. and Lewis R.V.  Mechanical Properties of Several Spider Silks. J. of Arachnology 22:5-11.

  • (1996) Lewis, R.V., Hinman, M., Kothakota, S. and Fournier, M.   Expression and Purification of a Recombinant Spider Silk Protein: A New Strategy for Producing Repetitive Proteins  Protein Expression and Purification 7:400-406.

  • (1997) Parkhe, A.J., Seeley, S.K., Gardner, K., Thompson L. and Lewis, R.V. Structural Studies of Spider Silk Proteins in the Fiber,  J. of Molecular Recognition 10:1-6.

  • (1997) Liivak, O., Flores, A., Lewis, R.V. and Jelinski, L.W.  Conformation of the Polyalanine Repeats in Minor Ampullate Gland Silk of the Spider Nephila clavipes.  Macromolecules 30:7127-31

  • (1998) Colgin, M and Lewis, R.V. Spider Minor Ampullate Silk Proteins Contain New Repetitive Sequences and Highly Conserved Non-silk-like “Spacer Regions” Protein Science 7:667-672

  • (1998) Hayashi, C. and Lewis, R.V. Spider Flagelliform Silk Proteins J. of Mol. Biol. 275:773-784

  • (1999) Hayashi, C.Y., Shipley, N.H. and Lewis, R.V., Hypotheses that Correlate the Sequence, Structure, and Mechanical Properties of Spider Silk Proteins. (International J. of Biological Macromolecules  24:271-275)

  • (2000) Hayashi, C.Y. and Lewis, R.V.  Molecular Architecture Controls the Evolution of a Modular Spider Silk Protein Gene. Science 287:1477-1479

  • (2001) Gatesy, J., Hayashi, C.Y., Motriuk, D., Woods, J. and Lewis, R.V.  Extreme Diversity, Conservation, and Convergence of Spider Silk Fibroin Sequences Science 291:2603-05

  • (2004) Gregory P. Holland, Randolph V. Lewis, and Jeffrey L.Yarger WISE NMR Characterization of Nanoscale Heterogeneity and Mobility in Supercontracted Nephila clavipes Spider Dragline Silk, J. Am .Chem.  Soc. 126: 5867-5872

  • (2004) Hayashi CY, Blackledge TA, Lewis RV.  Molecular and mechanical characterization of aciniform silk: uniformity of iterated sequence modules in a novel member of the spider silk fibroin gene family. Mol Biol Evol. 21(10):1950-9

  • (2004) M Tian, C Liu, and R Lewis,  Analysis of Major Ampullate Silk cDNAs from Two Non-Orb-Weaving Spiders. Biomacromolecules 5(3): 657-661

  • (2004) Brooks A.E. and Lewis, R.V., "Probing the Elastic Nature of Spider Silk in Pursuit of the Next Designer Fiber" in  Biomedical Sciences Instrumentation: Vol. 40, pg: 232 – 237.

  • (2004) Motriuk-Smith, M. and Lewis, R.V. "Brown Widow (Latrodectus Geometricus) Major Ampullate Silk Protein And Its Material Properties" in  Biomedical Sciences Instrumentation: Vol. 40, pg: 64-69.

  • (2005) Tian, M.; Lewis, R. V. “Molecular Characterization and Evolutionary Study of Spider Tubuliform (Eggcase) Silk Protein” Biochemistry: 44(22); 8006-8012.

  • (2005) Dagmara Motriuk-Smith, Alyson Smith, Cheryl Y. Hayashi, Randolph V. Lewis    Analysis of the conserved N-terminal domains in major ampullate spider silk proteins (in press, Biomacromolecules)

Randy Lewis

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Department of Molecular Biology

University of Wyoming

Department #3944

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-3300

Fax: (307) 766-5098


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