—Caterpillar venom is a complex mixture of toxins “Cocktail of 151 peptides from 59 families suggests defensive venoms aren’t always simple” Some animals use venom to capture prey; others use it as a defense against predators. Because the most-studied defensive venoms have relatively few components, biologists assumed that applied to all defensive venoms.
by Celia Henry Arnaud | April 22, 2021
—New family of venom peptides discovered “Ampulexins help wasps subdue cockroaches to serve as hosts” Female emerald jewel wasps of the species Ampulex compressa inject venom into the brains of cockroaches to subdue them so they can serve as edible hosts for wasp eggs and larvae. The venom is a complex mixture of proteins, peptides, and small molecules. By analyzing wasp venom with mass spectrometry, Michael E. Adams and coworkers at the University of California, Riverside, found that the venom contains a previously unknown family of peptides, which the researchers dub “ampulexins” (Biochemistry 2018, DOI: 10.1021/acs.biochem.7b00916). The wasp’s venom apparatus consists of a venom gland and a venom sac, both of which produce ampulexins.
by Celia Henry Arnaud | February 12, 2018
—Venom defense “” An unexpected new role hasbeen identified for the immune system's mast cells: They provide protection from snake and honeybee venom (Science 2006, 313, 526). Stanford University pathology professor Stephen J. Galli and colleagues uncovered this behavior when they injected mice with venom. Conventional wisdom suggested that the venom would lead mast cells in the mice to release compounds that cause inflammation, clotting abnormalities, and shock, all of which contribute to tissue injury and death. As a result, mice deficient in mast cells should be more resistant to venom than normal mice. Instead, the researchers found that the deficient mice were much more vulnerable to venom. The researchers discovered that mast cells in mice respond to venom by pumping out carboxypeptidase A and possibly other proteases. These enzymes then break down sarafotoxins and other dangerous substances in the venom.
July 31, 2006
—Mining Venoms “Understanding the composition of venoms can yield insight into evolution and provide new inspiration for drugs” Bryan G. Fry’s search for unusual venomous creatures has taken him to remote corners of the world, from polar Norway to Antarctica and many places in between. He’s milked venom from more than 20,000 snakes and been bitten by 26 of them.
by Celia Henry Arnaud | October 27, 2014
—Chemical cocktail allows cobra to spit pain “Scientists find that 3 types of snakes evolved the same chemical defense independently” Most venomous snakes are biters: their fangs inject venom to kill their prey. But three types of snakes—African spitting cobras, Indian spitting cobras, and ringhals—react to threats from humans by spitting venom toward the eyes, causing pain, inflammation, and even blindness. Now researchers understand the molecular basis of spitting snakes’ venom cocktail. The venom carries high levels of proteins that enhance the pain sensation in mouse nerve cells triggered by the venom (Science 2021, DOI: 10.1126/science.abb9303).Nicholas Casewell, a snake venom expert at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and researchers from eight countries found that the three types of snakes evolved the same defensive technique independently, a process called convergent evolution.The researchers used several analytical techniques to compare the venom proteins from different snake species.
by Laura Howes | February 06, 2021
We’ve got about 185 venomous species, and we put venoms from about 10% of those species in any given library designed for a particular drug target. That makes us very different from our competitors. To generate data to help market the venoms and the compound libraries, we’re doing our own research to prove how venoms work in different targets and to discover new activities of animals. Have venoms proved themselves to be useful as drugs? There are drugs on the market that are actual venom proteins that come from rattlesnakes. There’s also exenatide (Byetta), a drug for type 2 diabetes, which is derived from a chemical found in the saliva of a venomous lizard called the Gila monster. But it’s not that the drugs are always from the venom themselves. For instance, captopril was the first antihypertensive. It owes its discovery to snake venom, but the actual drug is a small-molecule mimic of the snake venom that binds in the same place the venom peptide usually binds. What does Venomtech’s future look like to you?
by Dalmeet Singh Chawla, special to C&EN | August 25, 2022
—Fangblenny bite delivers opiod-containing venom that drops blood pressure and ignites inflammation in victims “The colorful, inauspicious fish evolved its fangs before its venom-making skills” If a predator fish tries to swallow a tiny fangblenny, the hunter receives such a compelling dose of venom from its prospective lunch that the larger fish quivers and opens its mouth, letting the fangblenny escape unharmed.
by Sarah Everts | April 03, 2017