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Open Access Research article

Selection strategy and the design of hybrid oligonucleotide primers for RACE-PCR: cloning a family of toxin-like sequences from Agelena orientalis

Zhensheng Pan1, Richard Barry1, Alexey Lipkin2 and Mikhail Soloviev1*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biological Science, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK

2 Shemyakin & Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, 16/10, 117997 GSP, Moscow V-437, Russia

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BMC Molecular Biology 2007, 8:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-8-32

Published: 11 May 2007



the use of specific but partially degenerate primers for nucleic acid hybridisations and PCRs amplification of known or unknown gene families was first reported well over a decade ago and the technique has been used widely since then.


here we report a novel and successful selection strategy for the design of hybrid partially degenerate primers for use with RT-PCR and RACE-PCR for the identification of unknown gene families. The technique (named PaBaLiS) has proven very effective as it allowed us to identify and clone a large group of mRNAs encoding neurotoxin-like polypeptide pools from the venom of Agelena orientalis species of spider. Our approach differs radically from the generally accepted CODEHOP principle first reported in 1998. Most importantly, our method has proven very efficient by performing better than an independently generated high throughput EST cloning programme. Our method yielded nearly 130 non-identical sequences from Agelena orientalis, whilst the EST cloning technique yielded only 48 non-identical sequences from 2100 clones obtained from the same Agelena material. In addition to the primer design approach reported here, which is almost universally applicable to any PCR cloning application, our results also indicate that venom of Agelena orientalis spider contains a much larger family of related toxin-like sequences than previously thought.


with upwards of 100,000 species of spider thought to exist, and a propensity for producing diverse peptide pools, many more peptides of pharmacological importance await discovery. We envisage that some of these peptides and their recombinant derivatives will provide a new range of tools for neuroscience research and could also facilitate the development of a new generation of analgesic drugs and insecticides.