Variations in the Metallic Ion Concentration in the Silk Gland and Cocoon of Silkworm Antheraea assamensis helfer


The natural spinning process in silkworms involves the conformation transition of the liquid silk protein present in the silk gland to make fiber. This conformation transition is influenced by different factors, and some studies suggested that changes in the metallic ion concentrations is one of them (Zhou et al. 2005). This study investigated the changes in the metallic ion compositions in the silk glands (before and during spinning) and cocoons of non-mulberry silkworm Antheraea assamensis helfer. Intact silk glands were dissected from mature 5th instar A. assamensis larvae. The glands were rinsed with deionized water and divided into five divisions: posterior silk gland (PSG), middle silk gland (MSG), anterior silk gland (ASG), posterior middle (PM) and anterior middle (AM) division of silk gland. Cocoon pieces and the gland parts were dried and digested in acid mixture to quantify the metallic contents in an atomic absorption spectrophotometer (Shimadzu, AA7000). We determined seven metals (Na, K, Mg, Ca, Cu, Zn, Fe) present in the different parts of the secretory pathway as well as in the fibers of A.assamensis. Our results suggested that the concentrations of Mg, Ca, Na, and K were more abundant in the gland than the Cu and Zn. Fe concentration was found comparatively less in amount in the gland. Amount of Ca found to be higher in the cocoons. The differences in the metallic ion concentrations in the gland parts before and during spinning suggested the possibility of their role in the formation of silk thread from luminal silk.

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The authors sincerely acknowledge the financial support provided by the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, as INSPIRE Fellowship to AG.

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Correspondence to Dipali Devi.

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Goswami, A., Devi, D. Variations in the Metallic Ion Concentration in the Silk Gland and Cocoon of Silkworm Antheraea assamensis helfer. Biol Trace Elem Res 196, 285–289 (2020).

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  • Silk gland
  • Cocoon
  • Antheraea assamensis helfer
  • Metallic ions