Special Issue "Arthropod Venoms"

A special issue of Toxins (ISSN 2072-6651). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Venoms".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 November 2015).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Glenn F. King
Website
Guest Editor
Division of Chemistry & Structural Biology, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia
Interests: venoms-based drug discovery; venoms-based insecticide discovery; venom evolution; ion channel blockers; acid-sensing ion channels; voltage-gated sodium channels; chronic pain; stroke; NMR structural biology
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Arthropods are the most successful group of animals, representing more than 80% of extant animals species. This phylum is rich in venomous animals, including assassin bugs, ants, bees, caterpillars, centipedes, spiders, scorpions, and wasps. Arthropod venoms are used primarily for predation (e.g., assassin bugs and spiders) or defense (e.g., ants and bees), or sometimes for more specialized purposes, such as immobilization of host species for oviposition in the case of endoparasitoid wasps. This Special Issue will highlight the rich diversity of arthropod venoms, the ecological role of these venoms and their constituent toxins, and the potential of arthropod venom components for drug and insecticide development.

Prof. Dr. Glenn F. King
Guest Edtor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • arthropod venom
  • arachnid
  • assassin bug
  • centipede
  • hymenopteran
  • toxin evolution
  • venom-derived drugs
  • venom-derived insecticides

Published Papers (22 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
An Immunosuppressant Peptide from the Hard Tick Amblyomma variegatum
Toxins 2016, 8(5), 133; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8050133 - 03 May 2016
Cited by 7
Abstract
Ixodid ticks are well known for spreading transmitted tick-borne pathogens while being attached to their hosts for almost 1–2 weeks to obtain blood meals. Thus, they must secrete many immunosuppressant factors to combat the hosts’ immune system. In the present work, we investigated [...] Read more.
Ixodid ticks are well known for spreading transmitted tick-borne pathogens while being attached to their hosts for almost 1–2 weeks to obtain blood meals. Thus, they must secrete many immunosuppressant factors to combat the hosts’ immune system. In the present work, we investigated an immunosuppressant peptide of the hard tick Amblyomma variegatum. This peptide, named amregulin, is composed of 40 residues with an amino acid sequence of HLHMHGNGATQVFKPRLVLKCPNAAQLIQPGKLQRQLLLQ. A cDNA of the precursor peptide was obtained from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI, Bethesda, MD, USA). In rat splenocytes, amregulin exerts significant anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting the secretion of inflammatory factors in vitro, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-8 (IL-8) and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ). In rat splenocytes, treated with amregulin, compared to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) alone, the inhibition of the above inflammatory factors was significant at all tested concentrations (2, 4 and 8 µg/mL). Amregulin shows strong free radical scavenging and antioxidant activities (5, 10 and 20 µg/mL) in vitro. Amregulin also significantly inhibits adjuvant-induced paw inflammation in mouse models in vivo. This peptide may facilitate the ticks’ successful blood feeding and may lead to host immunotolerance of the tick. These findings have important implications for the understanding of tick-host interactions and the co-evolution between ticks and the viruses that they bear. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
The Spider Venom Peptide Lycosin-II Has Potent Antimicrobial Activity against Clinically Isolated Bacteria
Toxins 2016, 8(5), 119; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8050119 - 26 Apr 2016
Cited by 18
Abstract
Antimicrobial peptides have been accepted as excellent candidates for developing novel antibiotics against drug-resistant bacteria. Recent studies indicate that spider venoms are the source for the identification of novel antimicrobial peptides. In the present study, we isolated and characterized an antibacterial peptide named [...] Read more.
Antimicrobial peptides have been accepted as excellent candidates for developing novel antibiotics against drug-resistant bacteria. Recent studies indicate that spider venoms are the source for the identification of novel antimicrobial peptides. In the present study, we isolated and characterized an antibacterial peptide named lycosin-II from the venom of the spider Lycosa singoriensis. It contains 21 amino acid residue lacking cysteine residues and forms a typical linear amphipathic and cationic α-helical conformation. Lycosin-II displays potent bacteriostatic effect on the tested drug-resistant bacterial strains isolated from hospital patients, including multidrug-resistant A. baumannii, which has presented a huge challenge for the infection therapy. The inhibitory ability of lycosin-II might derive from its binding to cell membrane, because Mg2+ could compete with the binding sites to reduce the bacteriostatic potency of lycosin-II. Our data suggest that lycosin-II might be a lead in the development of novel antibiotics for curing drug-resistant bacterial infections. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
δ-Ctenitoxin-Pn1a, a Peptide from Phoneutria nigriventer Spider Venom, Shows Antinociceptive Effect Involving Opioid and Cannabinoid Systems, in Rats
Toxins 2016, 8(4), 106; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8040106 - 12 Apr 2016
Cited by 16
Abstract
PnTx4(6-1), henceforth renamed δ-Ctenitoxin-Pn1a (δ-CNTX-Pn1a), a peptide from Phoneutria nigriventer spider venom, initially described as an insect toxin, binds to site 3 of sodium channels in nerve cord synaptosomes and slows down sodium current inactivation in isolated axons in cockroaches (Periplaneta americana [...] Read more.
PnTx4(6-1), henceforth renamed δ-Ctenitoxin-Pn1a (δ-CNTX-Pn1a), a peptide from Phoneutria nigriventer spider venom, initially described as an insect toxin, binds to site 3 of sodium channels in nerve cord synaptosomes and slows down sodium current inactivation in isolated axons in cockroaches (Periplaneta americana). δ-CNTX-Pn1a does not cause any apparent toxicity to mice, when intracerebroventricularly injected (30 μg). In this study, we evaluated the antinociceptive effect of δ-CNTX-Pn1a in three animal pain models and investigated its mechanism of action in acute pain. In the inflammatory pain model, induced by carrageenan, δ-CNTX-Pn1a restored the nociceptive threshold of rats, when intraplantarly injected, 2 h and 30 min after carrageenan administration. Concerning the neuropathic pain model, δ-CNTX-Pn1a, when intrathecally administered, reversed the hyperalgesia evoked by sciatic nerve constriction. In the acute pain model, induced by prostaglandin E2, intrathecal administration of δ-CNTX-Pn1a caused a dose-dependent antinociceptive effect. Using antagonists of the receptors, we showed that the antinociceptive effect of δ-CNTX-Pn1a involves both the cannabinoid system, through CB1 receptors, and the opioid system, through μ and δ receptors. Our data show, for the first time, that δ-Ctenitoxin-Pn1a is able to induce antinociception in inflammatory, neuropathic and acute pain models. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
PhTx3-4, a Spider Toxin Calcium Channel Blocker, Reduces NMDA-Induced Injury of the Retina
Toxins 2016, 8(3), 70; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8030070 - 11 Mar 2016
Cited by 9
Abstract
The in vivo neuroprotective effect of PhTx3-4, a spider toxin N-P/Q calcium channel blocker, was studied in a rat model of NMDA-induced injury of the retina. NMDA (N-Methyl-d-Aspartate)-induced retinal injury in rats reduced the b-wave amplitude by 62% ± [...] Read more.
The in vivo neuroprotective effect of PhTx3-4, a spider toxin N-P/Q calcium channel blocker, was studied in a rat model of NMDA-induced injury of the retina. NMDA (N-Methyl-d-Aspartate)-induced retinal injury in rats reduced the b-wave amplitude by 62% ± 3.6%, indicating the severity of the insult. PhTx3-4 treatment increased the amplitude of the b-wave, which was almost equivalent to the control retinas that were not submitted to injury. The PhTx3-4 functional protection of the retinas recorded on the ERG also was observed in the neuroprotection of retinal cells. NMDA-induced injury reduced live cells in the retina layers and the highest reduction, 84%, was in the ganglion cell layer. Notably, PhTx3-4 treatment caused a remarkable reduction of dead cells in the retina layers, and the highest neuroprotective effect was in the ganglion cells layer. NMDA-induced cytotoxicity of the retina increased the release of glutamate, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and oxidative stress. PhTx3-4 treatment reduced glutamate release, ROS production and oxidative stress measured by malondialdehyde. Thus, we presented for the first time evidence of in vivo neuroprotection from NMDA-induced retinal injury by PhTx3-4 (-ctenitoxin-Pn3a), a spider toxin that blocks N-P/Q calcium channels. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Paulistine—The Functional Duality of a Wasp Venom Peptide Toxin
Toxins 2016, 8(3), 61; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8030061 - 29 Feb 2016
Cited by 4
Abstract
It has been reported that Paulistine in the venom of the wasp Polybia paulista co-exists as two different forms: an oxidized form presenting a compact structure due to the presence of a disulfide bridge, which causes inflammation through an apparent interaction with receptors [...] Read more.
It has been reported that Paulistine in the venom of the wasp Polybia paulista co-exists as two different forms: an oxidized form presenting a compact structure due to the presence of a disulfide bridge, which causes inflammation through an apparent interaction with receptors in the 5-lipoxygenase pathway, and a naturally reduced form (without the disulfide bridge) that exists in a linear conformation and which also causes hyperalgesia and acts in the cyclooxygenase type II pathway. The reduced peptide was acetamidomethylated (Acm-Paulistine) to stabilize this form, and it still maintained its typical inflammatory activity. Oxidized Paulistine docks onto PGHS2 (COX-2) molecules, blocking the access of oxygen to the heme group and inhibiting the inflammatory activity of Acm-Paulistine in the cyclooxygenase type II pathway. Docking simulations revealed that the site of the docking of Paulistine within the PGHS2 molecule is unusual among commercial inhibitors of the enzyme, with an affinity potentially much higher than those observed for traditional anti-inflammatory drugs. Therefore, Paulistine causes inflammatory activity at the level of the 5-lipooxygenase pathway and, in parallel, it competes with its reduced form in relation to the activation of the cyclooxygenase pathway. Thus, while the reduced Paulistine causes inflammation, its oxidized form is a potent inhibitor of this activity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
Venom of Parasitoid Pteromalus puparum Impairs Host Humoral Antimicrobial Activity by Decreasing Host Cecropin and Lysozyme Gene Expression
Toxins 2016, 8(2), 52; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8020052 - 20 Feb 2016
Cited by 4
Abstract
Insect host/parasitoid interactions are co-evolved systems in which host defenses are balanced by parasitoid mechanisms to disable or hide from host immune effectors. Here, we report that Pteromalus puparum venom impairs the antimicrobial activity of its host Pieris rapae. Inhibition zone results [...] Read more.
Insect host/parasitoid interactions are co-evolved systems in which host defenses are balanced by parasitoid mechanisms to disable or hide from host immune effectors. Here, we report that Pteromalus puparum venom impairs the antimicrobial activity of its host Pieris rapae. Inhibition zone results showed that bead injection induced the antimicrobial activity of the host hemolymph but that venom inhibited it. The cDNAs encoding cecropin and lysozyme were screened. Relative quantitative PCR results indicated that all of the microorganisms and bead injections up-regulated the transcript levels of the two genes but that venom down-regulated them. At 8 h post bead challenge, there was a peak in the transcript level of the cecropin gene, whereas the peak of lysozyme gene occurred at 24 h. The transcripts levels of the two genes were higher in the granulocytes and fat body than in other tissues. RNA interference decreased the transcript levels of the two genes and the antimicrobial activity of the pupal hemolymph. Venom injections similarly silenced the expression of the two genes during the first 8 h post-treatment in time- and dose-dependent manners, after which the silence effects abated. Additionally, recombinant cecropin and lysozyme had no significant effect on the emergence rate of pupae that were parasitized by P. puparum females. These findings suggest one mechanism of impairing host antimicrobial activity by parasitoid venom. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
An Insight into the Triabin Protein Family of American Hematophagous Reduviids: Functional, Structural and Phylogenetic Analysis
Toxins 2016, 8(2), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8020044 - 15 Feb 2016
Cited by 8
Abstract
A transcriptomic analysis of the saliva of T. pallidipennis together with a short proteomic analysis were carried out to reveal novel primary structures of the lipocalin/triabin protein families in this reduviid. Although triabins share some structural characteristics to lipocalins and they are classified [...] Read more.
A transcriptomic analysis of the saliva of T. pallidipennis together with a short proteomic analysis were carried out to reveal novel primary structures of the lipocalin/triabin protein families in this reduviid. Although triabins share some structural characteristics to lipocalins and they are classified as in the calcyn/lipocalin superfamily, triabins differ from lipocalins in the direction of β-strands in the general conformation of the β-barrel. The triabin protein family encompasses a wide variety of proteins, which disrupt the hemostasis of warm-blooded animals. Likewise, the function of proteins classified as triabins includes proteins that are carriers of small molecules, protease inhibitors, binders of specific cell-surface receptors as well as proteins that form complexes with other macromolecules. For example, triabin and pallidipin from the saliva of T. pallidipennis are thrombin and platelet aggregation inhibitors, respectively; triplatin from T. infestans binds to thromboxane A2; and nitrophorin from Rhodnius prolixus carries nitric oxide. Therefore, based on 42 new transcriptome sequences of triabins from the salivary glands of T. pallidipennis reported at present, and on triabin sequences of other American hematophagous reduviids already reported in the literature, subfamilies of triabins were proposed following phylogenetic analyses and functional characterization of triabin members. Eight subfamilies of proteins were recognized with known functions, which were the nitrophorin and amine binding proteins, Rhodnius prolixus aggregation inhibitor, triafestin, triatin, dipetalodipin and pallidipin, triplatin and infestilin, dimiconin and triabin, and procalin subfamilies. Interestingly, 70% of the analyzed sequences came from these eight subfamilies because there was no biological function associated with them, implying the existence of a vast number of proteins with potential novel biological activities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
Combined Effects of Bee Venom Acupuncture and Morphine on Oxaliplatin-Induced Neuropathic Pain in Mice
Toxins 2016, 8(2), 33; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8020033 - 22 Jan 2016
Cited by 19
Abstract
Oxaliplatin, a chemotherapeutic drug for colorectal cancer, induces severe peripheral neuropathy. Bee venom acupuncture (BVA) has been used to attenuate pain, and its effect is known to be mediated by spinal noradrenergic and serotonergic receptors. Morphine is a well-known opioid used to treat [...] Read more.
Oxaliplatin, a chemotherapeutic drug for colorectal cancer, induces severe peripheral neuropathy. Bee venom acupuncture (BVA) has been used to attenuate pain, and its effect is known to be mediated by spinal noradrenergic and serotonergic receptors. Morphine is a well-known opioid used to treat different types of pain. Here, we investigated whether treatment with a combination of these two agents has an additive effect on oxaliplatin-induced neuropathic pain in mice. To assess cold and mechanical allodynia, acetone and von Frey filament tests were used, respectively. Significant allodynia signs were observed three days after an oxaliplatin injection (6 mg/kg, i.p.). BVA (0.25, 1, and 2.5 mg/kg, s.c., ST36) or morphine (0.5, 2, and 5 mg/kg, i.p.) alone showed dose-dependent anti-allodynic effects. The combination of BVA and morphine at intermediate doses showed a greater and longer effect than either BVA or morphine alone at the highest dose. Intrathecal pretreatment with the opioidergic (naloxone, 20 μg) or 5-HT3 (MDL-72222, 15 μg) receptor antagonist, but not with α2-adrenergic (idazoxan, 10 μg) receptor antagonist, blocked this additive effect. Therefore, we suggest that the combination effect of BVA and morphine is mediated by spinal opioidergic and 5-HT3 receptors and this combination has a robust and enduring analgesic action against oxaliplatin-induced neuropathic pain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
Preventive Effects of Bee Venom Derived Phospholipase A2 on Oxaliplatin-Induced Neuropathic Pain in Mice
Toxins 2016, 8(1), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8010027 - 19 Jan 2016
Cited by 13
Abstract
Oxaliplatin, a chemotherapy drug used to treat colorectal cancer, induces specific sensory neurotoxicity signs that are aggravated by cold and mechanical stimuli. Here we examined the preventive effects of Bee Venom (BV) derived phospholipase A2 (bvPLA2) on oxaliplatin-induced neuropathic pain [...] Read more.
Oxaliplatin, a chemotherapy drug used to treat colorectal cancer, induces specific sensory neurotoxicity signs that are aggravated by cold and mechanical stimuli. Here we examined the preventive effects of Bee Venom (BV) derived phospholipase A2 (bvPLA2) on oxaliplatin-induced neuropathic pain in mice and its immunological mechanism. The cold and mechanical allodynia signs were evaluated by acetone and von Frey hair test on the hind paw, respectively. The most significant allodynia signs were observed at three days after an injection of oxaliplatin (6 mg/kg, i.p.) and then decreased gradually to a normal level on days 7–9. The oxaliplatin injection also induced infiltration of macrophages and upregulated levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-1β in the lumbar dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Daily treatment with bvPLA2 (0.2 mg/kg, i.p.) for five consecutive days prior to the oxaliplatin injection markedly inhibited the development of cold and mechanical allodynia, and suppressed infiltration of macrophages and the increase of IL-1β level in the DRG. Such preventive effects of bvPLA2 were completely blocked by depleting regulatory T cells (Tregs) with CD25 antibody pre-treatments. These results suggest that bvPLA2 may prevent oxaliplatin-induced neuropathic pain by suppressing immune responses in the DRG by Tregs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
Biological and Enzymatic Characterization of Proteases from Crude Venom of the Ant Odontomachus bauri
Toxins 2015, 7(12), 5114-5128; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins7124869 - 30 Nov 2015
Cited by 6
Abstract
Hymenoptera venoms constitute an interesting source of natural toxins that may lead to the development of novel therapeutic agents. The present study investigated the enzymatic and biological characteristics of the crude venom of the ant Odontomachus bauri. Its crude venom presents several [...] Read more.
Hymenoptera venoms constitute an interesting source of natural toxins that may lead to the development of novel therapeutic agents. The present study investigated the enzymatic and biological characteristics of the crude venom of the ant Odontomachus bauri. Its crude venom presents several protein bands, with higher staining for six proteins with gelatinolytic activity (17, 20, 26, 29, 43 and 48 kDa). The crude venom showed high proteolytic activity on azocasein at optimal pH 8.0 and 37 °C. In the presence of protease inhibitors as aprotinin, leupeptin and EDTA, the azocaseinolytic activity was reduced by 45%, 29% and 9%, respectively, suggesting that the enzymes present in the crude venom belong to the three classes of proteases, with the serine proteases in greater intensity. The crude venom degraded the fibrinogen α-chain faster than the β-chain, while the fibrinogen γ-chain remained unchanged. In biological assays, O. bauri venom showed hemolytic and coagulant activity in vitro, and defibrinating activity in vivo. In addition, the venom showed antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli as well as antiparasitic activity on Toxoplasma gondii infection in vitro. In that sense, this study sheds perspectives for pharmacological applications of O. bauri venom enzymes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
A Venom Gland Extracellular Chitin-Binding-Like Protein from Pupal Endoparasitoid Wasps, Pteromalus Puparum, Selectively Binds Chitin
Toxins 2015, 7(12), 5098-5113; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins7124867 - 30 Nov 2015
Cited by 5
Abstract
Chitin-binding proteins (CBPs) are present in many species and they act in a variety of biological processes. We analyzed a Pteromalus puparum venom apparatus proteome and transcriptome and identified a partial gene encoding a possible CBP. Here, we report cloning a full-length cDNA [...] Read more.
Chitin-binding proteins (CBPs) are present in many species and they act in a variety of biological processes. We analyzed a Pteromalus puparum venom apparatus proteome and transcriptome and identified a partial gene encoding a possible CBP. Here, we report cloning a full-length cDNA of a sequence encoding a chitin-binding-like protein (PpCBP) from P. puparum, a pupal endoparasitoid of Pieris rapae. The cDNA encoded a 96-amino-acid protein, including a secretory signal peptide and a chitin-binding peritrophin-A domain. Phylogenetic analysis of chitin binding domains (CBDs) of cuticle proteins and peritrophic matrix proteins in selected insects revealed that the CBD of PpCBP clustered with the CBD of Nasonia vitripennis. The PpCBP is specifically expressed in the venom apparatus of P. puparum, mostly in the venom gland. PpCBP expression was highest at day one after adult eclosion and much lower for the following five days. We produced a recombinant PpCBP and binding assays showed the recombinant protein selectively binds chitin but not cellulose in vitro. We infer that PpCBP serves a structural role in the venom reservoir, or may be injected into the host to help wound healing of the host exoskeleton. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
Honeybee Venom Proteome Profile of Queens and Winter Bees as Determined by a Mass Spectrometric Approach
Toxins 2015, 7(11), 4468-4483; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins7114468 - 30 Oct 2015
Cited by 26
Abstract
Venoms of invertebrates contain an enormous diversity of proteins, peptides, and other classes of substances. Insect venoms are characterized by a large interspecific variation resulting in extended lists of venom compounds. The venom composition of several hymenopterans also shows different intraspecific variation. For [...] Read more.
Venoms of invertebrates contain an enormous diversity of proteins, peptides, and other classes of substances. Insect venoms are characterized by a large interspecific variation resulting in extended lists of venom compounds. The venom composition of several hymenopterans also shows different intraspecific variation. For instance, venom from different honeybee castes, more specifically queens and workers, shows quantitative and qualitative variation, while the environment, like seasonal changes, also proves to be an important factor. The present study aimed at an in-depth analysis of the intraspecific variation in the honeybee venom proteome. In summer workers, the recent list of venom proteins resulted from merging combinatorial peptide ligand library sample pretreatment and targeted tandem mass spectrometry realized with a Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer (FT-ICR MS/MS). Now, the same technique was used to determine the venom proteome of queens and winter bees, enabling us to compare it with that of summer bees. In total, 34 putative venom toxins were found, of which two were never described in honeybee venoms before. Venom from winter workers did not contain toxins that were not present in queens or summer workers, while winter worker venom lacked the allergen Api m 12, also known as vitellogenin. Venom from queen bees, on the other hand, was lacking six of the 34 venom toxins compared to worker bees, while it contained two new venom toxins, in particularly serine proteinase stubble and antithrombin-III. Although people are hardly stung by honeybees during winter or by queen bees, these newly identified toxins should be taken into account in the characterization of a putative allergic response against Apis mellifera stings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
The Cystine Knot Is Responsible for the Exceptional Stability of the Insecticidal Spider Toxin ω-Hexatoxin-Hv1a
Toxins 2015, 7(10), 4366-4380; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins7104366 - 26 Oct 2015
Cited by 51
Abstract
The inhibitor cystine knot (ICK) is an unusual three-disulfide architecture in which one of the disulfide bonds bisects a loop formed by the two other disulfide bridges and the intervening sections of the protein backbone. Peptides containing an ICK motif are frequently considered [...] Read more.
The inhibitor cystine knot (ICK) is an unusual three-disulfide architecture in which one of the disulfide bonds bisects a loop formed by the two other disulfide bridges and the intervening sections of the protein backbone. Peptides containing an ICK motif are frequently considered to have high levels of thermal, chemical and enzymatic stability due to cross-bracing provided by the disulfide bonds. Experimental studies supporting this contention are rare, in particular for spider-venom toxins, which represent the largest diversity of ICK peptides. We used ω-hexatoxin-Hv1a (Hv1a), an insecticidal toxin from the deadly Australian funnel-web spider, as a model system to examine the contribution of the cystine knot to the stability of ICK peptides. We show that Hv1a is highly stable when subjected to temperatures up to 75 °C, pH values as low as 1, and various organic solvents. Moreover, Hv1a was highly resistant to digestion by proteinase K and when incubated in insect hemolymph and human plasma. We demonstrate that the ICK motif is essential for the remarkable stability of Hv1a, with the peptide’s stability being dramatically reduced when the disulfide bonds are eliminated. Thus, this study demonstrates that the ICK motif significantly enhances the chemical and thermal stability of spider-venom peptides and provides them with a high level of protease resistance. This study also provides guidance to the conditions under which Hv1a could be stored and deployed as a bioinsecticide. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessArticle
Revealing the Function and the Structural Model of Ts4: Insights into the “Non-Toxic” Toxin from Tityus serrulatus Venom
Toxins 2015, 7(7), 2534-2550; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins7072534 - 06 Jul 2015
Cited by 17
Abstract
The toxin, previously described as a “non-toxic” toxin, was isolated from the scorpion venom of Tityus serrulatus (Ts), responsible for the most severe and the highest number of accidents in Brazil. In this study, the subtype specificity and selectivity of Ts4 was investigated [...] Read more.
The toxin, previously described as a “non-toxic” toxin, was isolated from the scorpion venom of Tityus serrulatus (Ts), responsible for the most severe and the highest number of accidents in Brazil. In this study, the subtype specificity and selectivity of Ts4 was investigated using six mammalian Nav channels (Nav1.2→Nav1.6 and Nav1.8) and two insect Nav channels (DmNav1 and BgNav). The electrophysiological assays showed that Ts4 specifically inhibited the fast inactivation of Nav1.6 channels, the most abundant sodium channel expressed in the adult central nervous system, and can no longer be classified as a “non-toxic peptide”. Based on the results, we could classify the Ts4 as a classical α-toxin. The Ts4 3D-structural model was built based on the solved X-ray Ts1 3D-structure, the major toxin from Ts venom with which it shares high sequence identity (65.57%). The Ts4 model revealed a flattened triangular shape constituted by three-stranded antiparallel β-sheet and one α-helix stabilized by four disulfide bonds. The absence of a Lys in the first amino acid residue of the N-terminal of Ts4 is probably the main responsible for its low toxicity. Other key amino acid residues important to the toxicity of α- and β-toxins are discussed here. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Peptide Toxins in Solitary Wasp Venoms
Toxins 2016, 8(4), 114; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8040114 - 18 Apr 2016
Cited by 23
Abstract
Solitary wasps paralyze insects or spiders with stinging venom and feed the paralyzed preys to their larva. Accordingly, the venoms should contain a variety of constituents acting on nervous systems. However, only a few solitary wasp venoms have been chemically studied despite thousands [...] Read more.
Solitary wasps paralyze insects or spiders with stinging venom and feed the paralyzed preys to their larva. Accordingly, the venoms should contain a variety of constituents acting on nervous systems. However, only a few solitary wasp venoms have been chemically studied despite thousands of species inhabiting the planet. We have surveyed bioactive substances in solitary wasp venoms found in Japan and discovered a variety of novel bioactive peptides. Pompilidotoxins (PMTXs), in the venoms of the pompilid wasps Anoplius samariensis and Batozonellus maculifrons, are small peptides consisting of 13 amino acids without a disulfide bond. PMTXs slowed Na+ channel inactivation, in particular against neuronal type Na+ channels, and were rather selective to the Nav1.6 channel. Mastoparan-like cytolytic and antimicrobial peptides are the major components of eumenine wasp venoms. They are rich in hydrophobic and basic amino acids, adopting a α-helical secondary structure, and showing mast cell degranulating, antimicrobial and hemolytic activities. The venom of the spider wasp Cyphononyx fulvognathus contained four bradykinin-related peptides. They are hyperalgesic and, dependent on the structure, differently associated with B1 or B2 receptors. Further survey led to the isolation of leucomyosuppressin-like FMRFamide peptides from the venoms of the digger wasps Sphex argentatus and Isodontia harmandi. These results of peptide toxins in solitary wasp venoms from our studies are summarized. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessReview
Bee Venom Phospholipase A2: Yesterday’s Enemy Becomes Today’s Friend
Toxins 2016, 8(2), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8020048 - 22 Feb 2016
Cited by 28
Abstract
Bee venom therapy has been used to treat immune-related diseases such as arthritis for a long time. Recently, it has revealed that group III secretory phospholipase A2 from bee venom (bee venom group III sPLA2) has in vitro and in [...] Read more.
Bee venom therapy has been used to treat immune-related diseases such as arthritis for a long time. Recently, it has revealed that group III secretory phospholipase A2 from bee venom (bee venom group III sPLA2) has in vitro and in vivo immunomodulatory effects. A growing number of reports have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of bee venom group III sPLA2. Notably, new experimental data have shown protective immune responses of bee venom group III sPLA2 against a wide range of diseases including asthma, Parkinson’s disease, and drug-induced organ inflammation. It is critical to evaluate the beneficial and adverse effects of bee venom group III sPLA2 because this enzyme is known to be the major allergen of bee venom that can cause anaphylactic shock. For many decades, efforts have been made to avoid its adverse effects. At high concentrations, exposure to bee venom group III sPLA2 can result in damage to cellular membranes and necrotic cell death. In this review, we summarized the current knowledge about the therapeutic effects of bee venom group III sPLA2 on several immunological diseases and described the detailed mechanisms of bee venom group III sPLA2 in regulating various immune responses and physiopathological changes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessReview
Venoms of Heteropteran Insects: A Treasure Trove of Diverse Pharmacological Toolkits
Toxins 2016, 8(2), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8020043 - 12 Feb 2016
Cited by 24
Abstract
The piercing-sucking mouthparts of the true bugs (Insecta: Hemiptera: Heteroptera) have allowed diversification from a plant-feeding ancestor into a wide range of trophic strategies that include predation and blood-feeding. Crucial to the success of each of these strategies is the injection of venom. [...] Read more.
The piercing-sucking mouthparts of the true bugs (Insecta: Hemiptera: Heteroptera) have allowed diversification from a plant-feeding ancestor into a wide range of trophic strategies that include predation and blood-feeding. Crucial to the success of each of these strategies is the injection of venom. Here we review the current state of knowledge with regard to heteropteran venoms. Predaceous species produce venoms that induce rapid paralysis and liquefaction. These venoms are powerfully insecticidal, and may cause paralysis or death when injected into vertebrates. Disulfide-rich peptides, bioactive phospholipids, small molecules such as N,N-dimethylaniline and 1,2,5-trithiepane, and toxic enzymes such as phospholipase A2, have been reported in predatory venoms. However, the detailed composition and molecular targets of predatory venoms are largely unknown. In contrast, recent research into blood-feeding heteropterans has revealed the structure and function of many protein and non-protein components that facilitate acquisition of blood meals. Blood-feeding venoms lack paralytic or liquefying activity but instead are cocktails of pharmacological modulators that disable the host haemostatic systems simultaneously at multiple points. The multiple ways venom is used by heteropterans suggests that further study will reveal heteropteran venom components with a wide range of bioactivities that may be recruited for use as bioinsecticides, human therapeutics, and pharmacological tools. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessReview
Differential Properties of Venom Peptides and Proteins in Solitary vs. Social Hunting Wasps
Toxins 2016, 8(2), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8020032 - 22 Jan 2016
Cited by 29
Abstract
The primary functions of venoms from solitary and social wasps are different. Whereas most solitary wasps sting their prey to paralyze and preserve it, without killing, as the provisions for their progeny, social wasps usually sting to defend their colonies from vertebrate predators. [...] Read more.
The primary functions of venoms from solitary and social wasps are different. Whereas most solitary wasps sting their prey to paralyze and preserve it, without killing, as the provisions for their progeny, social wasps usually sting to defend their colonies from vertebrate predators. Such distinctive venom properties of solitary and social wasps suggest that the main venom components are likely to be different depending on the wasps’ sociality. The present paper reviews venom components and properties of the Aculeata hunting wasps, with a particular emphasis on the comparative aspects of venom compositions and properties between solitary and social wasps. Common components in both solitary and social wasp venoms include hyaluronidase, phospholipase A2, metalloendopeptidase, etc. Although it has been expected that more diverse bioactive components with the functions of prey inactivation and physiology manipulation are present in solitary wasps, available studies on venom compositions of solitary wasps are simply too scarce to generalize this notion. Nevertheless, some neurotoxic peptides (e.g., pompilidotoxin and dendrotoxin-like peptide) and proteins (e.g., insulin-like peptide binding protein) appear to be specific to solitary wasp venom. In contrast, several proteins, such as venom allergen 5 protein, venom acid phosphatase, and various phospholipases, appear to be relatively more specific to social wasp venom. Finally, putative functions of main venom components and their application are also discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessFeature PaperReview
The Biochemical Toxin Arsenal from Ant Venoms
Toxins 2016, 8(1), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8010030 - 20 Jan 2016
Cited by 54
Abstract
Ants (Formicidae) represent a taxonomically diverse group of hymenopterans with over 13,000 extant species, the majority of which inject or spray secretions from a venom gland. The evolutionary success of ants is mostly due to their unique eusociality that has permitted them to [...] Read more.
Ants (Formicidae) represent a taxonomically diverse group of hymenopterans with over 13,000 extant species, the majority of which inject or spray secretions from a venom gland. The evolutionary success of ants is mostly due to their unique eusociality that has permitted them to develop complex collaborative strategies, partly involving their venom secretions, to defend their nest against predators, microbial pathogens, ant competitors, and to hunt prey. Activities of ant venom include paralytic, cytolytic, haemolytic, allergenic, pro-inflammatory, insecticidal, antimicrobial, and pain-producing pharmacologic activities, while non-toxic functions include roles in chemical communication involving trail and sex pheromones, deterrents, and aggregators. While these diverse activities in ant venoms have until now been largely understudied due to the small venom yield from ants, modern analytical and venomic techniques are beginning to reveal the diversity of toxin structure and function. As such, ant venoms are distinct from other venomous animals, not only rich in linear, dimeric and disulfide-bonded peptides and bioactive proteins, but also other volatile and non-volatile compounds such as alkaloids and hydrocarbons. The present review details the unique structures and pharmacologies of known ant venom proteinaceous and alkaloidal toxins and their potential as a source of novel bioinsecticides and therapeutic agents. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessReview
Scorpions from Mexico: From Species Diversity to Venom Complexity
Toxins 2016, 8(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins8010002 - 24 Dec 2015
Cited by 49
Abstract
Scorpions are among the oldest terrestrial arthropods, which are distributed worldwide, except for Antarctica and some Pacific islands. Scorpion envenomation represents a public health problem in several parts of the world. Mexico harbors the highest diversity of scorpions in the world, including some [...] Read more.
Scorpions are among the oldest terrestrial arthropods, which are distributed worldwide, except for Antarctica and some Pacific islands. Scorpion envenomation represents a public health problem in several parts of the world. Mexico harbors the highest diversity of scorpions in the world, including some of the world’s medically important scorpion species. The systematics and diversity of Mexican scorpion fauna has not been revised in the past decade; and due to recent and exhaustive collection efforts as part of different ongoing major revisionary systematic projects, our understanding of this diversity has changed compared with previous assessments. Given the presence of several medically important scorpion species, the study of their venom in the country is also important. In the present contribution, the diversity of scorpion species in Mexico is revised and updated based on several new systematic contributions; 281 different species are recorded. Commentaries on recent venomic, ecological and behavioral studies of Mexican scorpions are also provided. A list containing the most important peptides identified from 16 different species is included. A graphical representation of the different types of components found in these venoms is also revised. A map with hotspots showing the current knowledge on scorpion distribution and areas explored in Mexico is also provided. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessReview
Recent Advances in Research on Widow Spider Venoms and Toxins
Toxins 2015, 7(12), 5055-5067; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins7124862 - 27 Nov 2015
Cited by 18
Abstract
Widow spiders have received much attention due to the frequently reported human and animal injures caused by them. Elucidation of the molecular composition and action mechanism of the venoms and toxins has vast implications in the treatment of latrodectism and in the neurobiology [...] Read more.
Widow spiders have received much attention due to the frequently reported human and animal injures caused by them. Elucidation of the molecular composition and action mechanism of the venoms and toxins has vast implications in the treatment of latrodectism and in the neurobiology and pharmaceutical research. In recent years, the studies of the widow spider venoms and the venom toxins, particularly the α-latrotoxin, have achieved many new advances; however, the mechanism of action of the venom toxins has not been completely clear. The widow spider is different from many other venomous animals in that it has toxic components not only in the venom glands but also in other parts of the adult spider body, newborn spiderlings, and even the eggs. More recently, the molecular basis for the toxicity outside the venom glands has been systematically investigated, with four proteinaceous toxic components being purified and preliminarily characterized, which has expanded our understanding of the widow spider toxins. This review presents a glance at the recent advances in the study on the venoms and toxins from the Latrodectus species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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Open AccessReview
Centipede Venoms and Their Components: Resources for Potential Therapeutic Applications
Toxins 2015, 7(11), 4832-4851; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins7114832 - 17 Nov 2015
Cited by 28
Abstract
Venomous animals have evolved with sophisticated bio-chemical strategies to arrest prey and defend themselves from natural predators. In recent years, peptide toxins from venomous animals have drawn considerable attention from researchers due to their surprising chemical, biochemical, and pharmacological diversity. Similar to other [...] Read more.
Venomous animals have evolved with sophisticated bio-chemical strategies to arrest prey and defend themselves from natural predators. In recent years, peptide toxins from venomous animals have drawn considerable attention from researchers due to their surprising chemical, biochemical, and pharmacological diversity. Similar to other venomous animals, centipedes are one of the crucial venomous arthropods that have been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years in China. Despite signifying pharmacological importance, very little is known about the active components of centipede venoms. More than 500 peptide sequences have been reported in centipede venomous glands by transcriptome analysis, but only a small number of peptide toxins from centipede has been functionally described. Like other venomous animals such as snakes, scorpions, and spiders, the venom of centipedes could be an excellent source of peptides for developing drugs for treatments as well as bio-insecticides for agrochemical applications. Although centipede venoms are yet to be adequately studied, the venom of centipedes as well as their components described to date, should be compiled to help further research. Therefore, based on previous reports, this review focusses on findings and possible therapeutic applications of centipede venoms as well as their components. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arthropod Venoms)
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