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Special Issue "Natural Toxins/Molecules (and Derivatives) from Animal Venoms: From Basic Research to Therapeutic Applications"

A special issue of Molecules (ISSN 1420-3049). This special issue belongs to the section "Medicinal Chemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 October 2018

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Jean-Marc Sabatier

Laboratory INSERM UMR 1097, Aix-Marseille University, 163, Parc Scientifique et Technologique de Luminy, Avenue de Luminy, Bâtiment TPR2, Case 939, Marseille 13288, France
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Interests: chemical synthesis; peptide synthesis; structure-activity relationships; medicinal chemistry; candidate drugs; antivirals, antibacterials; antioxidants; toxins

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Venomous animals (e.g., scorpions, snakes, sea anemones, cone snails, worms, wasps and frogs) are invaluable natural sources of biologically-active compounds that target a variety of receptors/molecules (ion channels, enzymes, etc.). These compounds are generally highly potent, but can display variable selectivities. Interestingly, a number of molecules from venoms reportedly possess some therapeutic potential to treat pain, microbial infections, and more or less severe pathologies such as cancer, autoimmune and neurological diseases. This special issue of ‘Molecules’ is devoted to the many aspects of marine and non-marine toxins/molecules (and derivatives thereof) from animal venoms, including their pharmacological properties, structural characteristics, structure-function relationship, molecular engineering/drug design, and therapeutic value. All scientists and clinicians working in these emerging and promising fields of research are strongly encouraged to submit their original works for publication in this Special Issue.

Dr. Jean-Marc Sabatier
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Molecules is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • venom
  • animal toxin
  • venomous animal
  • toxin engineering
  • drug design
  • structure-activity
  • chemotherapeutic drug
  • therapy
  • ion channel
  • antimicrobial
  • analgesic
  • antitumor/anticancer
  • autoimmune disease
  • neurological disorder

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Inactivation of Venom PLA2 Alleviates Myonecrosis and Facilitates Muscle Regeneration in Envenomed Mice: A Time Course Observation
Molecules 2018, 23(8), 1911; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23081911
Received: 19 June 2018 / Revised: 24 July 2018 / Accepted: 28 July 2018 / Published: 31 July 2018
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Abstract
Snake venom is a complex cocktail of toxins which induces a series of clinical and pathophysiological manifestations in victims, including severe local tissue damage and systemic alterations. Deinagkistrodon acutus (D. acutus) ranks among the “big four” life-threatening venomous species in China,
[...] Read more.
Snake venom is a complex cocktail of toxins which induces a series of clinical and pathophysiological manifestations in victims, including severe local tissue damage and systemic alterations. Deinagkistrodon acutus (D. acutus) ranks among the “big four” life-threatening venomous species in China, whose venom possesses strong myotoxicity and hematotoxicity that often lead to permanent disability or muscle atrophy. Varespladib, an inhibitor of mammalian phospholipase A2 (PLA2), has been recently reproposed as an effective antidote against snakebite envenomation. The present study aimed at evaluating the protective role of varespladib on muscle regeneration in envenomed mice. Mice were grouped and subjected to inoculation with D. acutus venom or a mixture of venom and varespladib or control vehicle in the gastrocnemius muscle. Local injuries including hemorrhage, myonecrosis, ulceration, and systemic damages including general dysfunction, visceral failure, and inflammatory responses were observed at 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21 days. The results indicated that most of the muscle myonecrosis and hemorrhage were alleviated by varespladib. Besides, the pretreated mice recovered rapidly with lesser atrophy and muscle fibrosis. In conclusion, the findings of the present study suggested that varespladib is an effective antidote that could neutralize D. acutus venom and allow for earlier and improved rehabilitation outcome. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Comprehensive Snake Venomics of the Okinawa Habu Pit Viper, Protobothrops flavoviridis, by Complementary Mass Spectrometry-Guided Approaches
Molecules 2018, 23(8), 1893; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23081893
Received: 6 July 2018 / Revised: 24 July 2018 / Accepted: 27 July 2018 / Published: 29 July 2018
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Abstract
The Asian world is home to a multitude of venomous and dangerous snakes, which are used to induce various medical effects in the preparation of traditional snake tinctures and alcoholics, like the Japanese snake wine, named Habushu. The aim of this work was
[...] Read more.
The Asian world is home to a multitude of venomous and dangerous snakes, which are used to induce various medical effects in the preparation of traditional snake tinctures and alcoholics, like the Japanese snake wine, named Habushu. The aim of this work was to perform the first quantitative proteomic analysis of the Protobothrops flavoviridis pit viper venom. Accordingly, the venom was analyzed by complimentary bottom-up and top-down mass spectrometry techniques. The mass spectrometry-based snake venomics approach revealed that more than half of the venom is composed of different phospholipases A2 (PLA2). The combination of this approach and an intact mass profiling led to the identification of the three main Habu PLA2s. Furthermore, nearly one-third of the total venom consists of snake venom metalloproteinases and disintegrins, and several minor represented toxin families were detected: C-type lectin-like proteins (CTL), cysteine-rich secretory proteins (CRISP), snake venom serine proteases (svSP), l-amino acid oxidases (LAAO), phosphodiesterase (PDE) and 5′-nucleotidase. Finally, the venom of P. flavoviridis contains certain bradykinin-potentiating peptides and related peptides, like the svMP inhibitors, pEKW, pEQW, pEEW and pENW. In preliminary MTT cytotoxicity assays, the highest cancerous-cytotoxicity of crude venom was measured against human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells and shows disintegrin-like effects in some fractions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle A3, a Scorpion Venom Derived Peptide Analogue with Potent Antimicrobial and Potential Antibiofilm Activity against Clinical Isolates of Multi-Drug Resistant Gram Positive Bacteria
Molecules 2018, 23(7), 1603; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23071603
Received: 24 May 2018 / Revised: 18 June 2018 / Accepted: 19 June 2018 / Published: 2 July 2018
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Abstract
Current research in the field of antimicrobials is focused on developing novel antimicrobial agents to counteract the huge dilemma that the human population is mainly facing in regards to the rise of bacterial resistance and biofilm infections. Host defense peptides (HDPs) are a
[...] Read more.
Current research in the field of antimicrobials is focused on developing novel antimicrobial agents to counteract the huge dilemma that the human population is mainly facing in regards to the rise of bacterial resistance and biofilm infections. Host defense peptides (HDPs) are a promising group of molecules for antimicrobial development as they display several attractive features suitable for antimicrobial activity, including their broad spectrum of activity and potency against bacteria. AamAP1 is a novel HDP that belongs to the venom of the North African scorpion Androctonus amoeruxi. In vitro antimicrobial assays revealed that the peptide displays moderate activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Additionally, the peptide proved to be highly hemolytic and displayed significantly high toxicity against mammalian cells. In our study, a novel synthetic peptide analogue named A3 was synthetically modified from AamAP1 in order to enhance its activity and toxicity profile. The design strategy depended on modifying the amino acid sequence of AamAP1 in order to alter its net positive charge, percentage helicity and modify other parameters that are involved theoretically in HDPs activity. Accordingly, A3 was evaluated for its in vitro antimicrobial and anti-biofilm activity individually and in combination with four different types of conventional antibiotics against clinical isolates of multi-drug resistant (MDR) Gram-positive bacteria. A3 was also evaluated for its cytotoxicity against mammalian cells. A3 managed to selectively inhibit the growth of a wide range of resistant strains of Gram-positive bacteria. Our results also showed that combining A3 with conventional antibiotics caused a synergistic antimicrobial behavior that resulted in decreasing the MIC value for A3 peptide as low as 0.125 µM. At the concentrations needed to inhibit bacterial growth, A3 displayed minimal mammalian cell toxicity. In conclusion, A3 exhibits enhanced activity and selectivity when compared with the parent natural scorpion venom peptide. The combination of A3 with conventional antibiotics could provide researchers in the antimicrobial drug development field with a potential alternative for conventional antibiotics against MDR bacteria. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Mouse β-Defensin 3, A Defensin Inhibitor of Both Its Endogenous and Exogenous Potassium Channels
Molecules 2018, 23(6), 1489; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23061489
Received: 6 May 2018 / Revised: 9 June 2018 / Accepted: 11 June 2018 / Published: 20 June 2018
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Abstract
The human defensins are recently discovered to inhibit potassium channels, which are classical targets of the animal toxins. Whether other vertebrate defensins are potassium channel inhibitors remains unknown. In this work, we reported that the mouse β-defensin 3 (mBD3) was a novel inhibitor
[...] Read more.
The human defensins are recently discovered to inhibit potassium channels, which are classical targets of the animal toxins. Whether other vertebrate defensins are potassium channel inhibitors remains unknown. In this work, we reported that the mouse β-defensin 3 (mBD3) was a novel inhibitor of both endogenous and exogenous potassium channels. The structural analysis showed that mBD3 is the most identical to human Kv1.3 channel-sensitive human β-defensin 2 (hBD2). However, the pharmacological profiles indicated that the recombinant mBD3 (rmBD3) weakly inhibited the mouse and human Kv1.3 channels. Different from the pharmacological features of human β-defensins, mBD3 more selectively inhibited the mouse Kv1.6 and human KCNQ1/KCNE1 channels with IC50 values of 0.6 ± 0.4 μM and 1.2 ± 0.8 μM, respectively. The site directed mutagenesis experiments indicated that the extracellular pore region of mouse Kv1.6 channel was the interaction site of rmBD3. In addition, the minor effect on the channel conductance-voltage relationship curves implied that mBD3 might bind the extracellular transmembrane helices S1-S2 linker and/or S3-S4 linker of mouse Kv1.6 channel. Together, these findings not only revealed mBD3 as a novel inhibitor of both endogenous and exogenous potassium channels, but also provided a clue to investigate the role of mBD3-Kv1.6 channel interaction in the physiological and pathological field in the future. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Cytotoxic, Anti-Proliferative and Apoptosis Activity of l-Amino Acid Oxidase from Malaysian Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus (CP-LAAO) Venom on Human Colon Cancer Cells
Molecules 2018, 23(6), 1388; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23061388
Received: 20 April 2018 / Revised: 24 May 2018 / Accepted: 31 May 2018 / Published: 8 June 2018
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Abstract
The aim of this study is to investigate the potential anti-cancer activity of l-amino acid oxidase (CP-LAAO) purified from the venom of Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus on SW480 and SW620 human colon cancer cells. Mass spectrometry guided purification was able to identify and purify
[...] Read more.
The aim of this study is to investigate the potential anti-cancer activity of l-amino acid oxidase (CP-LAAO) purified from the venom of Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus on SW480 and SW620 human colon cancer cells. Mass spectrometry guided purification was able to identify and purify CP-LAAO. Amino acid variations identified from the partial protein sequence of CP-LAAO may suggest novel variants of these proteins. The activity of the purified CP-LAAO was confirmed with o-phenyldiamine (OPD)-based spectrophotometric assay. CP-LAAO demonstrated time- and dose-dependent cytotoxic activity and the EC50 value was determined at 13 µg/mL for both SW480 and SW620 cells. Significant increase of caspase-3 activity, reduction of Bcl-2 levels, as well as morphological changes consistent with apoptosis were demonstrated by CP-LAAO. Overall, these data provide evidence on the potential anti-cancer activity of CP-LAAO from the venom of Malaysian C. purpureomaculatus for therapeutic intervention of human colon cancer. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Co-Localization of Crotamine with Internal Membranes and Accentuated Accumulation in Tumor Cells
Molecules 2018, 23(4), 968; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23040968
Received: 19 February 2018 / Revised: 29 March 2018 / Accepted: 6 April 2018 / Published: 20 April 2018
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Abstract
Crotamine is a highly cationic; cysteine rich, cross-linked, low molecular mass cell penetrating peptide (CPP) from the venom of the South American rattlesnake. Potential application of crotamine in biomedicine may require its large-scale purification. To overcome difficulties related with the purification of natural
[...] Read more.
Crotamine is a highly cationic; cysteine rich, cross-linked, low molecular mass cell penetrating peptide (CPP) from the venom of the South American rattlesnake. Potential application of crotamine in biomedicine may require its large-scale purification. To overcome difficulties related with the purification of natural crotamine (nCrot) we aimed in the present study to synthesize and characterize a crotamine analog (sCrot) as well investigate its CPP activity. Mass spectrometry analysis demonstrates that sCrot and nCrot have equal molecular mass and biological function—the capacity to induce spastic paralysis in the hind limbs in mice. sCrot CPP activity was evaluated in a wide range of tumor and non-tumor cell tests performed at different time points. We demonstrate that sCrot-Cy3 showed distinct co-localization patterns with intracellular membranes inside the tumor and non-tumor cells. Time-lapse microscopy and quantification of sCrot-Cy3 fluorescence signalss in living tumor versus non-tumor cells revealed a significant statistical difference in the fluorescence intensity observed in tumor cells. These data suggest a possible use of sCrot as a molecular probe for tumor cells, as well as, for the selective delivery of anticancer molecules into these tumors. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Exploration of the Inhibitory Potential of Varespladib for Snakebite Envenomation
Molecules 2018, 23(2), 391; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23020391
Received: 2 January 2018 / Revised: 8 February 2018 / Accepted: 9 February 2018 / Published: 12 February 2018
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (3499 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Phospholipase A2s (PLA2) is a major component of snake venom with diverse pathologic toxicities and, therefore, a potential target for antivenom therapy. Varespladib was initially designed as an inhibitor of mammal PLA2s, and was recently repurposed to
[...] Read more.
Phospholipase A2s (PLA2) is a major component of snake venom with diverse pathologic toxicities and, therefore, a potential target for antivenom therapy. Varespladib was initially designed as an inhibitor of mammal PLA2s, and was recently repurposed to a broad-spectrum inhibitor of PLA2 in snake venom. To evaluate the protective abilities of varespladib to hemorrhage, myonecrosis, and systemic toxicities that are inflicted by different crude snake venoms, subcutaneous ecchymosis, muscle damage, and biochemical variation in serum enzymes derived from the envenomed mice were determined, respectively. Varespladib treatment showed a significant inhibitory effect to snake venom PLA2, which was estimated by IC50 in vitro and ED50 in vivo. In animal models, the severely hemorrhagic toxicity of D. acutus and A. halys venom was almost fully inhibited after administration of varespladib. Moreover, signs of edema in gastrocnemius muscle were remarkably attenuated by administration of varespladib, with a reduced loss of myonecrosis and desmin. Serum levels of creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase isoenzyme 1, aspartate transaminase, and alanine transaminase were down-regulated after treatment with varespladib, which indicated the protection to viscera injury. In conclusion, varespladib may be a potential first-line drug candidate in snakebite envenomation first aid or clinical therapy. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Melittin on Porphyromonas Gingivalis LPS-Stimulated Human Keratinocytes
Molecules 2018, 23(2), 332; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23020332
Received: 5 January 2018 / Revised: 31 January 2018 / Accepted: 31 January 2018 / Published: 5 February 2018
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Abstract
Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that contributes to the destruction of the gingiva. Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis) can cause periodontitis via its pathogenic lipopolysaccharides (LPS). Melittin, a major component of bee venom, is known to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects.
[...] Read more.
Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that contributes to the destruction of the gingiva. Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis) can cause periodontitis via its pathogenic lipopolysaccharides (LPS). Melittin, a major component of bee venom, is known to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects. However, the role of melittin in the inflammatory response has not been elucidated in periodontitis-like human keratinocytes. Therefore, we investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of melittin on a P. gingivalis LPS (PgLPS)-treated HaCaT human keratinocyte cell line. The cytotoxicity of melittin was measured using a human keratinocyte cell line, HaCaT, and a Cell Counting Kit-8. The effect of melittin on PgLPS-induced inflammation was determined with Western blot, real-time quantitative PCT, and immunofluorescence. PgLPS increased the expression of toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 and proinflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, and interferon-γ (IFN-γ). Moreover, PgLPS induced activation of the nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and protein kinase B/Akt. Melittin also inhibited the expression of proinflammatory cytokines by suppressing the activation of the NF-κB signaling pathway, ERK, and Akt. Melittin attenuates the PgLPS-induced inflammatory response and could therefore be applied in the treatment of periodontitis for anti-inflammatory effects. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview The Biological and Biophysical Properties of the Spider Peptide Gomesin
Molecules 2018, 23(7), 1733; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23071733
Received: 1 July 2018 / Revised: 11 July 2018 / Accepted: 12 July 2018 / Published: 16 July 2018
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Abstract
This review summarises the current knowledge of Gomesin (Gm), an 18-residue long, cationic anti-microbial peptide originally isolated from the haemocytes of the Brazilian tarantula Acanthoscurria gomesiana. The peptide shows potent cytotoxic activity against clinically relevant microbes including Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, fungi, and
[...] Read more.
This review summarises the current knowledge of Gomesin (Gm), an 18-residue long, cationic anti-microbial peptide originally isolated from the haemocytes of the Brazilian tarantula Acanthoscurria gomesiana. The peptide shows potent cytotoxic activity against clinically relevant microbes including Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, fungi, and parasites. In addition, Gm shows in-vitro and in-vivo anti-cancer activities against several human and murine cancers. The peptide exerts its cytotoxic activity by permeabilising cell membranes, but the underlying molecular mechanism of action is still unclear. Due to its potential as a therapeutic agent, the structure and membrane-binding properties, as well as the leakage and cytotoxic activities of Gm have been studied using a range of techniques. This review provides a summary of these studies, with a particular focus on biophysical characterisation studies of peptide variants that have attempted to establish a structure-activity relationship. Future studies are still needed to rationalise the binding affinity and cell-type-specific selectivity of Gm and its variants, while more pre-clinical studies are required to develop Gm into a therapeutically useful peptide. Full article
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Open AccessReview Anticancer Activity of Toxins from Bee and Snake Venom—An Overview on Ovarian Cancer
Molecules 2018, 23(3), 692; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23030692
Received: 10 February 2018 / Revised: 11 March 2018 / Accepted: 14 March 2018 / Published: 19 March 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (601 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Cancer represents the disease of the millennium, a major problem in public health. The proliferation of tumor cells, angiogenesis, and the relationship between the cancer cells and the components of the extracellular matrix are important in the events of carcinogenesis, and these pathways
[...] Read more.
Cancer represents the disease of the millennium, a major problem in public health. The proliferation of tumor cells, angiogenesis, and the relationship between the cancer cells and the components of the extracellular matrix are important in the events of carcinogenesis, and these pathways are being used as targets for new anticancer treatments. Various venoms and their toxins have shown possible anticancer effects on human cancer cell lines, providing new perspectives in drug development. In this review, we observed the effects of natural toxins from bee and snake venom and the mechanisms through which they can inhibit the growth and proliferation of cancer cells. We also researched how several types of natural molecules from venom can sensitize ovarian cancer cells to conventional chemotherapy, with many toxins being helpful for developing new anticancer drugs. This approach could improve the efficiency of standard therapies and could allow the administration of decreased doses of chemotherapy. Natural toxins from bee and snake venom could become potential candidates for the future treatment of different types of cancer. It is important to continue these studies concerning therapeutic drugs from natural resource and, more importantly, to investigate their mechanism of action on cancer cells. Full article
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Response of Cellular Immunity to Cnidarian Pore-Forming Toxins

J.S. Hwang

A group of stable, water-soluble and membrane-bound proteins constitute the pore forming toxins (PFTs) in cnidarians. They interact with membranes to physically alter the membrane structure and permeability, resulting in the formation of pores. These lesions on the plasma membrane causes an imbalance of cellular ionic gradients, resulting in swelling of the cell and eventually its rupture. Of all cnidarian PFTs, actinoporins are by far the best studied subgroup with established knowledge in their molecular structure and their mode of pore-forming action. However, the current view of necrotic action by actinoporins may not be the only mechanism that induces cell death since there are increasing evidence showing that pore-forming toxins can induce either necrosis or apoptosis in a cell-type and dose-dependent manner. In this review, we focus on the response of cellular immunity to the cnidarian pore-forming toxins and the signalling pathways that might be involved in these cellular responses. Since PFTs represent potential candidates for targeted toxin therapy for the treatment of numerous cancers, we also address the challenge to overcome the immunogenicity of these toxins when used as therapeutics in the host.

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