January 18, 2022 9:43 pm

A technique revolutionizes the study of the composition of scorpion venom

The Torrential rains that have struck the Egyptian city of Aswan, in the south of the country, last week they have not only caused floods, strong winds and power outages, also a invasion of fat-tailed arabian scorpions (Androctonus crassicauda), who have sought refuge in streets and houses.

The result is that hundreds of people have had to be hospitalized and at least three deaths have been registered, according to the Ministry of Health Of Egipt. The main reason is the power of the poison, composed of neurotoxins, cardiotoxins and possibly myotoxins, of this arthropod about 10 centimeters in length.

New work has developed an innovative technique to study for the first time the genes present in the venom of these animals from the actual substance rather than the tissue of the venom gland.

Given the dangerousness of the bite of this arachnid, common in desert environments of North Africa and the Middle East, they are being administered dose of antivenom – Achieved for this species – to avoid the appearance of symptoms, such as fever, severe pain, inflammation, vomiting, muscle tremors or respiratory or heart problems, or their worsening.

For the creation of these antisera or even to find new and potential medicines, such as those intended to treat cardiovascular diseases, among other applications, the scientific community needs to have access to toxins extracted from the gland tissue where the venom of animals such as scorpions is created. But most poisonous species have not been studied, and when they have, the death of the animal has been required.

A new job, published in the magazine PLoS ONE, has developed an innovative technique to study for the first time the genes present in the poison of these animals from the real substance instead of the venom gland tissue. Thus, it has been possible to determine the process by which this unique substance is produced, with the main advantage that it is no longer necessary to sacrifice the animal.

The technique, called transcriptomics, allows us to examine the expression patterns of genes and observe which ones are active during venom production. The method, developed by scientists from the Free University of Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam in the Netherlands) and the University of Porto (Portugal), in collaboration with the Naturalis Biodiversity Center and the University of Leiden (Netherlands), offers new possibilities for research for this compound.

Difference between the old extraction methods and the new technique. / Freek J. Vonk et al.

Each animal has its own poison production technique

“Thanks to this technique, we can see with great precision which genes are active at different moments in the production of the venom,” he says. Freek J. Vonk, professor at the Dutch university and researcher at Naturalis. “This snapshot offers for the first time the possibility of studying how the influence of nutrition, the season of the year and age, in the production of poison in a single individual ”, he emphasizes.

With this new method, easier, pure and specific than previous techniques, scientists can investigate what variations exist in the venom and what factors can influence them. “Every poison contains from dozens to more than hundreds of different poisonous substances, called toxins, which are produced by the poison gland. After a bite or sting, these can have a toxic effect on various systems, such as Nerve endings o la blood circulation”, explains Vonk.

The method now makes it possible to analyze venom variations in a large number of poisonous animals that have hardly been studied, such as scorpions, fish and even the platypus.

Arie van der Meijden

But this substance is produced by animals in different ways: “Some animals, such as snakes and the centipede, have venom-producing cells that emit their venom into the storage space of that gland in small vesicles, which gives rise to a relatively ‘clean venom, ”he explains. Matthias Bittenbinder, poison expert and PhD student at Naturalis and VU Amsterdam.

Others, like scorpions, allow the cells of your poisonous gland to be “cut” into pieces or even completely disintegrate in the poison storage space. Therefore, they produce a poison that contains many cellular debris comprising substances on which transcriptomics can be applied. So you can map which genes are turned on to make which proteins.

The way each animal produces the poison indicates whether the technique can be performed or not. In the case of snakes, the method does not work on them. “On the contrary, the technique now makes it possible to study venom variations in a large number of poisonous animals that have hardly been studied, such as scorpions, the fishes and even the platypus”, Underlines Arie van der Meijden, researcher at the University of Porto and inventor of the innovative method.

Source: SINC

Rights: Creative Commons.


Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *