The female lacewing protects her eggs from detection and predation by suspending each egg at the end of a fine strand of silk. Researchers from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) conducted studies at ChemMatCARS that confirmed the elegant and unique structure of the lacewing’s silken egg stalk. Their work appears in the December 2009 Journal of Structural Biology.

“We used wide-angle x-ray scattering at the ChemMatCARS facility to give us detailed information about the protein structure of a single silk fiber,” said lead author Sarah Weisman. “Since the tiny egg stalks are only 3 millimeters long and 15 microns in diameter, we couldn’t have obtained clear data anywhere except at a high-flux third-generation synchrotron source.”

The silk’s properties—remarkable extensibility (it can be stretched to nearly 500% of its length before breaking), good bending rigidity and tensile strength, and relative simplicity of production—suggest that it may have potential value as a biomaterial.


Read more

  • Advanced Photon Source Highlight
  • Article:
    Sarah Weisman, Shoko Okada, Stephen T. Mudie, Mickey G. Huson, Holly E. Trueman, Alagacone Sriskantha, Victoria S. Haritos, and Tara D. Sutherland
    Fifty Years Later: The Sequence, Structure and Function of Lacewing Cross-Beta Silk
    J. Struct. Biol. 168, 467 (2009)