Prey-selective venoms and toxins have been documented across only a few species of snakes. The lack of research in this area has been due to the absence of suitably flexible testing platforms. In order to test more species for prey specificity of their venom, we used an innovative taxonomically flexible, high-throughput biolayer interferometry approach to ascertain the relative binding of 29 α-neurotoxic venoms from African and Asian elapid representatives (26 Naja
spp., Aspidelaps scutatus
, Elapsoidea boulengeri,
and four locales of Ophiophagus hannah
) to the alpha-1 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor orthosteric (active) site for amphibian, lizard, snake, bird, and rodent targets. Our results detected prey-selective, intraspecific, and geographical differences of α-neurotoxic binding. The results also suggest that crude venom that shows prey selectivity is likely driven by the proportions of prey-specific α-neurotoxins with differential selectivity within the crude venom. Our results also suggest that since the α-neurotoxic prey targeting does not always account for the full dietary breadth of a species, other toxin classes with a different pathophysiological function likely play an equally important role in prey immobilisation of the crude venom depending on the prey type envenomated. The use of this innovative and taxonomically flexible diverse assay in functional venom testing can be key in attempting to understanding the evolution and ecology of α-neurotoxic snake venoms, as well as opening up biochemical and pharmacological avenues to explore other venom effects.
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