We report on the structure of the small-subunit ribosomal RNA (18S rRNA) sequence from Hyptiotes gertschi (Araneae, Uloboridae), which is the largest 18S gene sequenced in any arachnid to date. We compare this remarkable sequence to those from a range of other spiders and arachnids, and develop base-pairing models of its insert regions to determine its overall secondary structure. The H. gertschi sequence of 1902 bases is 86 nucleotides longer than any comparable spider sequence and contains 5 inserts between 5 and 28 bases in length, all at regions characterized as among the most variable in eukaryotic 18S genes. Inserts were also found in one of these variable regions in published sequences of 3 species of hard ticks (Acari, Ixodidae). Other arachnid taxa were remarkably uniform in 18S primary sequence length, ranging from 1802 to 1816 nucleotides. Thermodynamic modeling of the H. gertschi inserts suggests they are largely self-complementary, extending the stem portions of the variable regions.
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