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Concept: Bombyx mori


Bombyx mori cypovirus is a major pathogen which causes significant losses in silkworm cocoon harvests because the virus particles are embedded in micrometer-sized protein crystals called polyhedra and can remain infectious in harsh environmental conditions for years. But the remarkable stability of polyhedra can be applied on slow-release carriers of cytokines for tissue engineering. Here we show the complete healing in critical-sized bone defects by bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) encapsulated polyhedra. Although absorbable collagen sponge (ACS) safely and effectively delivers recombinant human BMP-2 (rhBMP-2) into healing tissue, the current therapeutic regimens release rhBMP-2 at an initially high rate after which the rate declines rapidly. ACS impregnated with BMP-2 polyhedra had enough osteogenic activity to promote complete healing in critical-sized bone defects, but ACS with a high dose of rhBMP-2 showed incomplete bone healing, indicating that polyhedral microcrystals containing BMP-2 promise to advance the state of the art of bone healing.

Concepts: Bombyx mandarina, Healing, Bone, Bombyx, Bombycidae, Extracellular matrix, Collagen, Bombyx mori


Moth-eye nanostructures are a well-known example of biological antireflective surfaces formed by pseudoregular arrays of nipples and are often used as a template for biomimetic materials. Here, we provide morphological characterization of corneal nanostructures of moths from the Bombycidae family, including strains of domesticated Bombyx mori silk-moth, its wild ancestor Bombyx mandarina, and a more distantly related Apatelodes torrefacta. We find high diversification of the nanostructures and strong antireflective properties they provide. Curiously, the nano-dimple pattern of B. mandarina is found to reduce reflectance as efficiently as the nanopillars of A. torrefacta. Access to genome sequence of Bombyx further permitted us to pinpoint corneal proteins, likely contributing to formation of the antireflective nanocoatings. These findings open the door to bioengineering of nanostructures with novel properties, as well as invite industry to expand traditional moth-eye nanocoatings with the alternative ones described here.

Concepts: Virus, DNA, Lepidoptera, Gene, Bombyx mandarina, Bombycidae, Bombyx mori, Bombyx


Silks are remarkable materials with desirable mechanical properties, yet the fine details of natural production remain elusive and subsequently inaccessible to biomimetic strategies. Improved knowledge of the natural processes could therefore unlock development of a host of bio inspired fibre spinning systems. Here, we use the Chinese silkworm Bombyx mori to review the pressure requirements for natural spinning and discuss the limits of a biological extrusion domain. This provides a target for finite element analysis of the flow of silk proteins, with the aim of bringing the simulated and natural domains into closer alignment. Supported by two parallel routes of experimental validation, our results indicate that natural spinning is achieved, not by extruding the feedstock, but by the pulling of nascent silk fibres. This helps unravel the oft-debated question of whether silk is pushed or pulled from the animal, and provides impetus to the development of pultrusion-based biomimetic spinning devices.The natural production of silks remains elusive and subsequently inaccessible to biomimetic strategies. Here the authors show that silks cannot be spun by pushing alone, and that natural spinning is dominated by pultrusion, which provides design guidelines for future biomimetic spinning systems.

Concepts: Sericulture, Bombyx mandarina, Bombyx, Bombycidae, Finite element method, Engineering, Silk, Bombyx mori


Naturally spun silks generate fibres with unique properties, including strength, elasticity and biocompatibility. Here we describe a microfluidics-based strategy to spin liquid native silk, obtained directly from the silk gland of Bombyx mori silkworms, into micron-scale capsules with controllable geometry and variable levels of intermolecular β-sheet content in their protein shells. We demonstrate that such micrococoons can store internally the otherwise highly unstable liquid native silk for several months and without apparent effect on its functionality. We further demonstrate that these native silk micrococoons enable the effective encapsulation, storage and release of other aggregation-prone proteins, such as functional antibodies. These results show that native silk micrococoons are capable of preserving the full activity of sensitive cargo proteins that can aggregate and lose function under conditions of bulk storage, and thus represent an attractive class of materials for the storage and release of active biomolecules.

Concepts: History of silk, Sericulture, Bombyx mandarina, Bombycidae, Bombyx, Molecular biology, Bombyx mori, Silk


Silkworm silk is gaining significant attention from both the textile industry and research society because of its outstanding mechanical properties and lustrous appearance. The possibility of creating tougher silks attracts particular research interest. Carbon nanotubes and graphene are widely studied for their use as reinforcement. In this work, we report mechanically enhanced silk directly collected by feeding Bombyx mori larval silkworms with single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and graphene. We found that parts of the fed carbon nanomaterials were incorporated into the as-spun silk fibers, whereas the others went into the excrement of silkworms. Spectroscopy study indicated that nanocarbon additions hindered the conformation transition of silk fibroin from random coil/α-helix to β-sheet, which may contribute to increased breaking elongation and toughness modules. We further investigated the pyrolysis of modified silk, and a highly developed graphitic structure with obviously enhanced electrical conductivity was obtained through the introduction SWNTs and graphene. The successful generation of these SWNT- or graphene- embedded silks by in vivo feeding is expected to open up possibilities for the large-scale production of high strength silk fibers.

Concepts: Bombyx, Graphite, Bombycidae, Graphene, Carbon, Bombyx mori, Carbon nanotube, Silk


Light in biological media is known as freely diffusing because interference is negligible. Here, we show Anderson light localization in quasi-two-dimensional protein nanostructures produced by silkworms (Bombyx mori). For transmission channels in native silk, the light flux is governed by a few localized modes. Relative spatial fluctuations in transmission quantities are proximal to the Anderson regime. The sizes of passive cavities (smaller than a single fibre) and the statistics of modes (decomposed from excitation at the gain-loss equilibrium) differentiate silk from other diffusive structures sharing microscopic morphological similarity. Because the strong reflectivity from Anderson localization is combined with the high emissivity of the biomolecules in infra-red radiation, silk radiates heat more than it absorbs for passive cooling. This collective evidence explains how a silkworm designs a nanoarchitectured optical window of resonant tunnelling in the physically closed structures, while suppressing most of transmission in the visible spectrum and emitting thermal radiation.

Concepts: Visible spectrum, Optics, Physics, Black body, Emissivity, Bombyx mori, Infrared, Electromagnetic radiation


Cre-mediated recombination is widely used to manipulate defined genes spatiotemporally in vivo. The present study evaluated the Cre/loxP system in Bombyx mori by establishing two transgenic lines. One line contained a Cre recombinase gene controlled by a sericin-1 gene (Ser1) promoter. The other line contained a loxP-Stop-loxP-DsRed cassette driven by the same Ser1 promoter. The precise deletion of the Stop fragment was found to be triggered by Cre-mediated site-specific excision, and led to the expression of DsRed fluorescence protein in the middle silk glands of all double-transgenic hybrids. This result was also confirmed by phenotypical analysis. Hence, the current study demonstrated the feasibility of Cre-mediated site-specific recombination in B. mori, and opened a new window for further refining genetic tools in silkworms.

Concepts: RNA, Transcription, Bombyx mori, Molecular biology, Gene expression, Gene, Genetics, DNA


Full-length cDNA of a LIM and SH3 contained protein 1 (named BmLASP1) was identified from the silkworm, Bombyx mori, for the first time by rapid amplification of cDNA ends. The full-length cDNA of BmLASP1 is 2094bp, consisting of a 5'-terminal untranslated region (UTR) of 117bp, and a 3'-UTR of 610bp with two poly-adenylation signal sequence AATAAA and a poly (A) tail. The BmLASP1 cDNA encodes a polypeptide comprising 455 amino acids, including a LIM domain, two nebulin domains and an SH3 domain. The theoretical isoelectric point is 7.07 and the predicted molecular weight is 51.8kDa. BmLASP1 has no signal peptide but three potential N-glycosylation sites. Sequence similarity and phylogenic analyses indicated that BmLASP1 belonged to the group of insect LASP1 with a longer linker region which is different from vertebrate LASP1. The LASP1 in silkworm contained eight exons in its coding regions, and the last exon-intron boundary was conserved the same as in mammalian and Ciona intestinalis LASP1 genes. By fluorescent quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, the mRNA transcripts of BmLASP1 were mainly detected in the gonad, head, and spiracle, and slightly in the silk gland, vasa mucosa, midgut, fat body, and hemocytes. After silkworm larvae were infected by B. mori cytoplasmic polyhedrosis virus (BmCPV), the relative expression level of BmLASP1 was down-regulated in the midgut. This result suggested that BmLASP1 may play an important role in the response of silkworm to BmCPV infection.

Concepts: Bombyx mori, RNA, Messenger RNA, Molecular biology, Amino acid, Gene expression, Protein, DNA


During larval-pupal transformation, the anterior silk glands (ASGs) of the silkworm Bombyx mori undergo programmed cell death (PCD) triggered by 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E). Under standard in vitro culture conditions (0.3ml of medium with 1μM 20E), ASGs of the fourth-instar larvae do not undergo PCD in response to 20E. Similarly, larvae of the fifth instar do not respond to 20E through day 5 of the instar (V5). However, ASGs of V6 die when challenged by 20E, indicating that the glands might be destined to die before V6 but that a death commitment is not yet present. When we increased the volume of culture medium for one gland from 0.3 to 9ml, V5 ASGs underwent PCD. We examined the response of ASGs to 20E every day by culturing them in 9ml of medium and found that ASGs on and after V2 were fully responsive to 20E. Because pupal commitment is associated with juvenile hormone (JH), the corpora allata (a JH secretory organ) were removed on day 3 of the fourth larval instar (IV3), and their ASGs on V0 were cultured with 20E. Removal of the corpora allata allowed the V0 larval ASGs to respond to 20E with PCD. In contrast, topical application of a JH analogue inhibited the response to 20E when applied on or before V5. We conclude that the acquisition of responsiveness to 20E precedes the loss of JH sensitivity, and that the death commitment in ASGs occurs between V5 and 6.

Concepts: Bombycidae, Programmed cell death, Hormone, Culture, Lepidoptera, Caterpillar, Developmental biology, Bombyx mori


Insect cytokine paralytic peptide (PP) upregulates the expression of immune-related genes and contributes to host defense in the silkworm Bombyx mori. The present findings demonstrated that PP promotes nitric oxide (NO) production and induces the expression of NO synthase. A pharmacologic NO synthase inhibitor suppressed the PP-dependent i) induction of immune-related genes, ii) activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, and iii) killing delay of silkworm larvae by Staphylococcus aureus. The upstream mechanism of NO synthesis in insect immunity has been unknown, and the present results suggest for the first time that an insect cytokine induces NO and contributes to self-defense.

Concepts: Amino acid, Staphylococcus aureus, Innate immune system, Transcription, Lepidoptera, Nitric oxide, Bombyx mori, Signal transduction