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1.  Impairment of the cell-to-matrix adhesion and cytotoxicity induced by the Mediterranean jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca venom and its fractions in cultured glioblastoma cells 
The biodiversity of the marine environment and the associated chemical diversity constitute a practically unlimited source of new active substances in the field of the development of bioactive products. In our study, we have investigated the efficiency of the venom from the Mediterranean jellyfish, Pelagia noctiluca and its fractions for anti-proliferative and anti-cell adhesion to cell–extracellular matrix activities.
Our experiments have indicated that the separation of the Mediterranean jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca crude venom extract by sephadex G-75 chromatography led to four fractions (F1, F2, F3, and F4). Among the four fractions F1 and F3 were cytotoxic against U87 cells with IC50 values of 125 and 179 μg/ml respectively. The venom, F1, F2 and F 3 showed significant anti-proliferative activity in time-dependent manner. Our results also suggest that these fractions and the venom are able to inhibit cell adhesion to fibrinogen in dose-dependent manner. This inhibition is reliant on its ability to interact with integrins.
To conclude, we have demonstrated for the first time that Pelagia noctiluca venom and its fractions especially (F1 and F2) display potent anti-tumoral properties. Separation by sephadex G-75 chromatography give rise to more active fractions than the crude venom extract. The purification and the determination of chemical structures of compounds of these active fractions are under investigation. Overall, Pelagia noctiluca venom may has the potential to serve as a template for future anticancer-drug development.
PMCID: PMC3537653  PMID: 22741917
Pelagia noctiluca; Venom; Sephadex G-75; Cell proliferation; Cell adhesion
2.  Pelagia noctiluca (Scyphozoa) Crude Venom Injection Elicits Oxidative Stress and Inflammatory Response in Rats 
Marine Drugs  2014;12(4):2182-2204.
Cnidarian toxins represent a rich source of biologically active compounds. Since they may act via oxidative stress events, the aim of the present study was to verify whether crude venom, extracted from the jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca, elicits inflammation and oxidative stress processes, known to be mediated by Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) production, in rats. In a first set of experiments, the animals were injected with crude venom (at three different doses 6, 30 and 60 µg/kg, suspended in saline solution, i.v.) to test the mortality and possible blood pressure changes. In a second set of experiments, to confirm that Pelagia noctiluca crude venom enhances ROS formation and may contribute to the pathophysiology of inflammation, crude venom-injected animals (30 µg/kg) were also treated with tempol, a powerful antioxidant (100 mg/kg i.p., 30 and 60 min after crude venom). Administration of tempol after crude venom challenge, caused a significant reduction of each parameter related to inflammation. The potential effect of Pelagia noctiluca crude venom in the systemic inflammation process has been here demonstrated, adding novel information about its biological activity.
PMCID: PMC4012448  PMID: 24727391
crude venom; Pelagia noctiluca; oxidative stress; inflammation; apoptosis; tempol
3.  The Mauve Stinger Pelagia noctiluca (Forsskål, 1775). Distribution, Ecology, Toxicity and Epidemiology of Stings. A Review 
Marine Drugs  2008;6(3):496-513.
The toxicity of Cnidaria is a subject of concern due to its influence on humans. In particular, jellyfish blooms can highly affect human economical activities, such as bathing, fishery, tourism, etc., as well as the public health. Stinging structures of Cnidaria (nematocysts) produce remarkable effects on human skin, such as erythema, swelling, burning and vesicles, and at times further severe dermonecrotic, cardio- and neurotoxic effects, which are particularly dangerous in sensitive subjects. In several zones the toxicity of jellyfish is a very important health problem, thus it has stimulated the research on these organisms; to date toxicological research on Cnidarian venoms in the Mediterranean region is not well developed due to the weak poisonousness of venoms of jellyfish and anemones living in this area. In spite of this, during last decades several problems were also caused in the Mediterranean by stinging consequent to Cnidarian blooms mainly caused by Pelagia noctiluca (Forsskål, 1775) which is known to be the most venomous Mediterranean jellyfish. This paper reviews the knowledge on this jellyfish species, particularly considering its occurrence and toxicity.
PMCID: PMC2579739  PMID: 19005582
Jellyfish; Pelagia noctiluca; venom; nematocysts; distribution; ecology
4.  Induction of cytotoxicity of Pelagia noctiluca venom causes reactive oxygen species generation, lipid peroxydation induction and DNA damage in human colon cancer cells 
The long-lasting and abundant blooming of Pelagia noctiluca in Tunisian coastal waters compromises both touristic and fishing activities and causes substantial economic losses. Determining their molecular mode of action is, important in order to limit or prevent the subsequent damages. Thus, the aim of the present study was to investigate the propensity of Pelagia noctiluca venom to cause oxidative damage in HCT 116 cells and its associated genotoxic effects.
Our results indicated an overproduction of ROS, an induction of catalase activity and an increase of MDA generation. We looked for DNA fragmentation by means of the comet assay. Results indicated that venom of Pelagia noctiluca induced DNA fragmentation. SDS-PAGE analysis of Pelagia noctiluca venom revealed at least 15 protein bands of molecular weights ranging from 4 to 120 kDa.
Oxidative damage may be an initiating event and contributes, in part, to the mechanism of toxicity of Pelagia noctiluca venom.
PMCID: PMC3254669  PMID: 22151830
Pelagia noctiluca; Jellyfish; Venom; Cytotoxicity; Oxidative stress; DNA fragmentation
5.  Immunological and Toxinological Responses to Jellyfish Stings 
Just over a century ago, animal responses to injections of jellyfish extracts unveiled the phenomenon of anaphylaxis. Yet, until very recently, understanding of jellyfish sting toxicity has remained limited. Upon contact, jellyfish stinging cells discharge complex venoms, through thousands of barbed tubules, into the skin resulting in painful and, potentially, lethal envenomations. This review examines the immunological and toxinological responses to stings by prominent species of jellyfish including Physalia sp. (Portuguese Man-o-War, Blue-bottle), Cubozoan jellyfish including Chironex fleckeri, several Carybdeids including Carybdea arborifera and Alatina moseri, Linuche unguiculta (Thimble jellyfish), a jellyfish responsible for Irukandji syndrome (Carukia barnesi) and Pelagia noctiluca. Jellyfish venoms are composed of potent proteinaceous porins (cellular membrane pore-forming toxins), neurotoxic peptides, bioactive lipids and other small molecules whilst the tubules contain ancient collagens and chitins. We postulate that immunologically, both tubular structural and functional biopolymers as well as venom components can initiate innate, adaptive, as well as immediate and delayed hypersensitivity reactions that may be amenable to topical anti-inflammatory-immunomodifier therapy. The current challenge for immunotoxinologists is to deconstruct the actions of venom components to target therapeutic modalities for sting treatment.
PMCID: PMC3773479  PMID: 21824077
Jellyfish; envenomation; sting; allergy; toxin; immunology
6.  Jellyfish Stings Trigger Gill Disorders and Increased Mortality in Farmed Sparus aurata (Linnaeus, 1758) in the Mediterranean Sea 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(4):e0154239.
Jellyfish are of particular concern for marine finfish aquaculture. In recent years repeated mass mortality episodes of farmed fish were caused by blooms of gelatinous cnidarian stingers, as a consequence of a wide range of hemolytic, cytotoxic, and neurotoxic properties of associated cnidocytes venoms. The mauve stinger jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca (Scyphozoa) has been identified as direct causative agent for several documented fish mortality events both in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea aquaculture farms. We investigated the effects of P. noctiluca envenomations on the gilthead sea bream Sparus aurata by in vivo laboratory assays. Fish were incubated for 8 hours with jellyfish at 3 different densities in 300 l experimental tanks. Gill disorders were assessed by histological analyses and histopathological scoring of samples collected at time intervals from 3 hours to 4 weeks after initial exposure. Fish gills showed different extent and severity of gill lesions according to jellyfish density and incubation time, and long after the removal of jellyfish from tanks. Jellyfish envenomation elicits local and systemic inflammation reactions, histopathology and gill cell toxicity, with severe impacts on fish health. Altogether, these results shows P. noctiluca swarms may represent a high risk for Mediterranean finfish aquaculture farms, generating significant gill damage after only a few hours of contact with farmed S. aurata. Due to the growth of the aquaculture sector and the increased frequency of jellyfish blooms in the coastal waters, negative interactions between stinging jellyfish and farmed fish are likely to increase with the potential for significant economic losses.
PMCID: PMC4839677  PMID: 27100175
7.  Analgesic effect of Persian Gulf Conus textile venom 
Cone snails are estimated to consist of up to 700 species. The venom of these snails has yielded a rich source of novel peptides. This study was aimed to study the analgesic effect of Persian Gulf Conus textile and its comparison with morphine in mouse model.
Materials and Methods:
Samples were collected in Larak Island. The venom ducts were Isolated and kept on ice then homogenized. The mixture centrifuged at 10000 × g for 20 min. Supernatant was considered as extracted venom. The protein profile of venom determined using 15% sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE). Venom was administered intraperitoneally (IP) to evaluate the LD50 in Swiss albino mice. Different concentrations of Conus textile venom were injected intrathecally to mice to evaluate their analgesic effect in comparison to morphine. Injection was carried out between the L5 and L6 vertebrae. Differences between groups in the first and second phase were tested with Two-Way analysis of variance (ANOVA).
SDS-PAGE indicated 12 bands ranged between 6 and 180 KDa. Finally, ten ng of Conus crude venom showed the best analgesic activity in formalin test. No death observed up to 100 mg/kg. Analgesic activity of crude venom was more significant (P<0.05) in acute pain than inflammatory pain. The analgesic effect of 10 ng Conus venom was the same as morphine for reduction of inflammatory pain (P=0.27).
The venom of Persian Gulf Conus textile contains an analgesic component for reliving of acute pain which can lead to find an analgesic drug.
PMCID: PMC4340988  PMID: 25729549
Analgesic activity; Conus textile; Persian gulf; Venom
8.  A blooming jellyfish in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean 
Biology Letters  2010;6(5):688-691.
A long-term time series of plankton records collected by the continuous plankton recorder (CPR) Survey in the northeast Atlantic indicates an increased occurrence of Cnidaria since 2002. In the years 2007 and 2008, outbreaks of the warm-temperate scyphomedusa, Pelagia noctiluca, appeared in CPR samples between 45° N to 58° N and 1° W to 26° W. Knowing the biology of this species and its occurrence in the adjacent Mediterranean Sea, we suggest that P. noctiluca may be exploiting recent hydroclimatic changes in the northeast Atlantic to increase its extent and intensity of outbreaks. In pelagic ecosystems, Cnidaria can affect fish recruitment negatively. Since P. noctiluca is a highly venomous species, outbreaks can also be detrimental to aquaculture and make bathing waters unusable, thus having profound ecological and socio-economic consequences.
PMCID: PMC2936146  PMID: 20375044
climate; jellyfish blooms; Pelagia noctiluca; plankton; temperature
9.  Jellyfish as Prey: Frequency of Predation and Selective Foraging of Boops boops (Vertebrata, Actinopterygii) on the Mauve Stinger Pelagia noctiluca (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94600.
In recent years, jellyfish blooms have attracted considerable scientific interest for their potential impacts on human activities and ecosystem functioning, with much attention paid to jellyfish as predators and to gelatinous biomass as a carbon sink. Other than qualitative data and observations, few studies have quantified direct predation of fish on jellyfish to clarify whether they may represent a seasonally abundant food source. Here we estimate predation frequency by the commercially valuable Mediterranean bogue, Boops boops on the mauve stinger jellyfish, Pelagia noctiluca, in the Strait of Messina (NE Sicily). A total of 1054 jellyfish were sampled throughout one year to quantify predation by B. boops from bite marks on partially eaten jellyfish and energy density of the jellyfish. Predation by B. boops in summer was almost twice that in winter, and they selectively fed according to medusa gender and body part. Calorimetric analysis and biochemical composition showed that female jellyfish gonads had significantly higher energy content than male gonads due to more lipids and that gonads had six-fold higher energy content than the somatic tissues due to higher lipid and protein concentrations. Energetically, jellyfish gonads represent a highly rewarding food source, largely available to B. boops throughout spring and summer. During the remainder of the year, when gonads were not very evident, fish predation switched towards less-selective foraging on the somatic gelatinous biomass. P. noctiluca, the most abundant jellyfish species in the Mediterranean Sea and a key planktonic predator, may represent not only a nuisance for human leisure activities and a source of mortality for fish eggs and larvae, but also an important resource for fish species of commercial value, such as B. boops.
PMCID: PMC3984264  PMID: 24727977
10.  Purification and Functional Characterisation of Rhiminopeptidase A, a Novel Aminopeptidase from the Venom of Bitis gabonica rhinoceros 
Snake bite is a major neglected public health issue within poor communities living in the rural areas of several countries throughout the world. An estimated 2.5 million people are bitten by snakes each year and the cost and lack of efficacy of current anti-venom therapy, together with the lack of detailed knowledge about toxic components of venom and their modes of action, and the unavailability of treatments in rural areas mean that annually there are around 125,000 deaths worldwide. In order to develop cheaper and more effective therapeutics, the toxic components of snake venom and their modes of action need to be clearly understood. One particularly poorly understood component of snake venom is aminopeptidases. These are exo-metalloproteases, which, in mammals, are involved in important physiological functions such as the maintenance of blood pressure and brain function. Although aminopeptidase activities have been reported in some snake venoms, no detailed analysis of any individual snake venom aminopeptidases has been performed so far. As is the case for mammals, snake venom aminopeptidases may also play important roles in altering the physiological functions of victims during envenomation. In order to further understand this important group of snake venom enzymes we have isolated, functionally characterised and analysed the sequence-structure relationships of an aminopeptidase from the venom of the large, highly venomous West African gaboon viper, Bitis gabonica rhinoceros.
Methodology and Principal Findings
The venom of B. g. rhinoceros was fractionated by size exclusion chromatography and fractions with aminopeptidase activities were isolated. Fractions with aminopeptidase activities showed a pure protein with a molecular weight of 150 kDa on SDS-PAGE. In the absence of calcium, this purified protein had broad aminopeptidase activities against acidic, basic and neutral amino acids but in the presence of calcium, it had only acidic aminopeptidase activity (APA). Together with the functional data, mass spectrometry analysis of the purified protein confirmed this as an aminopeptidase A and thus this has been named as rhiminopeptidase A. The complete gene sequence of rhiminopeptidase A was obtained by sequencing the PCR amplified aminopeptidase A gene from the venom gland cDNA of B. g. rhinoceros. The gene codes for a predicted protein of 955 amino acids (110 kDa), which contains the key amino acids necessary for functioning as an aminopeptidase A. A structural model of rhiminopeptidase A shows the structure to consist of 4 domains: an N-terminal saddle-shaped β domain, a mixed α and β catalytic domain, a β-sandwich domain and a C-terminal α helical domain.
This study describes the discovery and characterisation of a novel aminopeptidase A from the venom of B. g. rhinoceros and highlights its potential biological importance. Similar to mammalian aminopeptidases, rhiminopeptidase A might be capable of playing roles in altering the blood pressure and brain function of victims. Furthermore, it could have additional effects on the biological functions of other host proteins by cleaving their N-terminal amino acids. This study points towards the importance of complete analysis of individual components of snake venom in order to develop effective therapies for snake bites.
Author Summary
Snake bite is a major neglected public health issue causing an estimated 125,000 deaths each year, predominantly within poor communities living in rural areas of countries in South East Asia and Africa. Current treatments for snake bites are costly and have limited effectiveness, thus there is a need to develop novel therapeutics. In order to do this the toxic components of snake venom need to be clearly understood. Enzymes called aminopeptidases have been noticed in several snake venoms, but their functions have not been characterised. Related enzymes are also present in mammals, where they are involved in the maintenance of blood pressure and brain function. To further understand this important group of enzymes within snake venom we have purified and analysed the function and structure of an aminopeptidase from the venom of the West African gaboon viper. Our results suggest that this enzyme could also affect the maintenance of blood pressure and brain function in victims of snake bites. Along with other snake venom components, aminopeptidases might be a potential therapeutic target for developing novel treatments for snake bites.
PMCID: PMC2919393  PMID: 20706583
11.  Partial Purification and Characterization of Anticoagulant Factor from the Snake (Echis Carinatus) Venom 
Objective(s): Snake venoms contain complex mixture of proteins with biological activities. Some of these proteins affect blood coagulation and platelet function in different ways. Snake venom toxin may serve as a starting material for drug design to combat several pathophysiological problems such as cardiovascular disorders. In the present study, purification of anticoagulation factor from venom of snake (Echis carinatus) was studied.
Materials and Methods: Anticoagulation activity of crude venom, fractions and purified peptide were determined by using prothrombin time (PT) and thrombin time (TT). Three fractions were partially purified from the venom of E. Carinatus by gel filtration on sephadex G-75 and final purification was performed by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with C18 column. A purified anticoagulant factor was derived which showed a single protein band in SDS-PAGE electrophoresis under reducing condition.
Results: Results of PT and TT tests for purified peptide (EC217) were found to be 102±4.242 and < 5 min. respectively. Determination of molecular weight revealed that the active purified peptide (EC217) was about 30 KD.
Conclusion: The present study showed that the venom of E. carinatus contains at least one anticoagulant factor.
PMCID: PMC3909624  PMID: 24494065
Anticoagulant factor; Chromatography; Echis carinatus; Snake venom
12.  Honey Bee Venom (Apis mellifera) Contains Anticoagulation Factors and Increases the Blood-clotting Time 
Journal of Pharmacopuncture  2015;18(4):7-11.
Bee venom (BV) is a complex mixture of proteins and contains proteins such as phospholipase and melittin, which have an effect on blood clotting and blood clots. The mechanism of action of honey bee venom (HBV, Apis mellifera) on human plasma proteins and its anti-thrombotic effect were studied. The purpose of this study was to investigate the anti-coagulation effect of BV and its effects on blood coagulation and purification.
Crude venom obtained from Apis mellifera was selected. The anti-coagulation factor of the crude venom from this species was purified by using gel filtration chromatography (sephadex G-50), and the molecular weights of the anti-coagulants in this venom estimated by using sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE). Blood samples were obtained from 10 rabbits, and the prothrombin time (PT) and the partial thromboplastin time (PTT) tests were conducted. The approximate lethal dose (LD) values of BV were determined.
Crude BV increased the blood clotting time. For BV concentrations from 1 to 4 mg/mL, clotting was not observed even at more than 300 seconds, standard deviations (SDs) = ± 0.71; however, clotting was observed in the control group 13.8 s, SDs = ± 0.52. Thus, BV can be considered as containing anti-coagulation factors. Crude BV is composed 4 protein bands with molecular weights of 3, 15, 20 and 41 kilodalton (kDa), respectively. The LD50 of the crude BV was found to be 177.8 μg/mouse.
BV contains anti-coagulation factors. The fraction extracted from the Iranian bees contains proteins that are similar to anti-coagulation proteins, such as phospholipase A2 (PLA2) and melittin, and that can increase the blood clotting times in vitro.
PMCID: PMC4797586  PMID: 26998384
anti-coagulants;  bee venom;  chromatography;  LD50
13.  Blood Coagulation Induced by Iranian Saw-Scaled Viper (Echis Carinatus) Venom: Identification, Purification and Characterization of a Prothrombin Activator 
Objective(s): Echis carinatus is one of the venomous snakes in Iran. The venom of Iranian Echis carinatus is a rich source of protein with various factors affecting the plasma protein and blood coagulation factor. Some of these proteins exhibit types of enzymatic activities. However, other items are proteins with no enzymatic activity.
Materials and Methods: In order to study the mechanism and effect of the venom on human plasma proteins, the present study has evaluated the effect of crude venom and all fractions. A procoagulant factor (prothrombin activator) was isolated from the venom of the Iranian snake Echis carinatus with a combination of gel filtration (Sephadex G-75), ion-exchange chromatography (DEAE- Sepharose) and reverse phase HPLC. Furthermore, proteolytic activity of the crude venom and all fractions on blood coagulation factors such as prothrombin time (PT) was studied.
Results: In the present study, the PT test was reduced from 13.4 s to 8.6 s when human plasma was treated with crude venom (concentraion of venom was 1 mg/ml). The purified procoagulant factor revealed a single protein band in SDS polyacrylamide electrophoresis under reducing conditions and its molecular weight was estimated at about 65 kDa. A single-band protein showed fragment patterns similar to those generated by the group A prothrombin activators, which convert prothrombin into meizothrombin independent of the prothrombinase complex.
Conclusion: This study showed that the fraction which separated from Iranian snake Echis carinatus venom can be a prothrombin activators. It can be concluded that this fraction is a procoagulant factor.
PMCID: PMC3909625  PMID: 24494066
Blood coagulation; Chromatography; Iranian Echis carinatus; Prothrombin time; Protrombin activator
14.  Jellyfish Modulate Bacterial Dynamic and Community Structure 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39274.
Jellyfish blooms have increased in coastal areas around the world and the outbreaks have become longer and more frequent over the past few decades. The Mediterranean Sea is among the heavily affected regions and the common bloom - forming taxa are scyphozoans Aurelia aurita s.l., Pelagia noctiluca, and Rhizostoma pulmo. Jellyfish have few natural predators, therefore their carcasses at the termination of a bloom represent an organic-rich substrate that supports rapid bacterial growth, and may have a large impact on the surrounding environment. The focus of this study was to explore whether jellyfish substrate have an impact on bacterial community phylotype selection. We conducted in situ jellyfish - enrichment experiment with three different jellyfish species. Bacterial dynamic together with nutrients were monitored to assess decaying jellyfish-bacteria dynamics. Our results show that jellyfish biomass is characterized by protein rich organic matter, which is highly bioavailable to ‘jellyfish - associated’ and ‘free - living’ bacteria, and triggers rapid shifts in bacterial population dynamics and composition. Based on 16S rRNA clone libraries and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis, we observed a rapid shift in community composition from unculturable Alphaproteobacteria to culturable species of Gammaproteobacteria and Flavobacteria. The results of sequence analyses of bacterial isolates and of total bacterial community determined by culture independent genetic analysis showed the dominance of the Pseudoalteromonadaceae and the Vibrionaceae families. Elevated levels of dissolved proteins, dissolved organic and inorganic nutrient release, bacterial abundance and carbon production as well as ammonium concentrations characterized the degradation process. The biochemical composition of jellyfish species may influence changes in the amount of accumulated dissolved organic and inorganic nutrients. Our results can contribute insights into possible changes in bacterial population dynamics and nutrient pathways following jellyfish blooms which have important implications for ecology of coastal waters.
PMCID: PMC3379990  PMID: 22745726
15.  Full-Length Venom Protein cDNA Sequences from Venom-Derived mRNA: Exploring Compositional Variation and Adaptive Multigene Evolution 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2016;10(6):e0004587.
Envenomation of humans by snakes is a complex and continuously evolving medical emergency, and treatment is made that much more difficult by the diverse biochemical composition of many venoms. Venomous snakes and their venoms also provide models for the study of molecular evolutionary processes leading to adaptation and genotype-phenotype relationships. To compare venom complexity and protein sequences, venom gland transcriptomes are assembled, which usually requires the sacrifice of snakes for tissue. However, toxin transcripts are also present in venoms, offering the possibility of obtaining cDNA sequences directly from venom. This study provides evidence that unknown full-length venom protein transcripts can be obtained from the venoms of multiple species from all major venomous snake families. These unknown venom protein cDNAs are obtained by the use of primers designed from conserved signal peptide sequences within each venom protein superfamily. This technique was used to assemble a partial venom gland transcriptome for the Middle American Rattlesnake (Crotalus simus tzabcan) by amplifying sequences for phospholipases A2, serine proteases, C-lectins, and metalloproteinases from within venom. Phospholipase A2 sequences were also recovered from the venoms of several rattlesnakes and an elapid snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus), and three-finger toxin sequences were recovered from multiple rear-fanged snake species, demonstrating that the three major clades of advanced snakes (Elapidae, Viperidae, Colubridae) have stable mRNA present in their venoms. These cDNA sequences from venom were then used to explore potential activities derived from protein sequence similarities and evolutionary histories within these large multigene superfamilies. Venom-derived sequences can also be used to aid in characterizing venoms that lack proteomic profiles and identify sequence characteristics indicating specific envenomation profiles. This approach, requiring only venom, provides access to cDNA sequences in the absence of living specimens, even from commercial venom sources, to evaluate important regional differences in venom composition and to study snake venom protein evolution.
Author Summary
This work demonstrates that full-length venom protein messenger RNAs are present in secreted venoms and can be used to acquire full-length protein sequences of toxins from both front-fanged (Elapidae, Viperidae) and rear-fanged (Colubridae) snake venoms, eliminating the need to use venom glands. Full-length transcripts were obtained from venom samples that were fresh, newly lyophilized, old, field desiccated or commercially prepared, representing a significant advance over previous attempts which produced only partial sequence transcripts. Transcripts for all major venom protein families (metalloproteinases, serine proteases, C-type lectins, phospholipases A2 and three-finger toxins) responsible for clinically significant snakebite symptoms were obtained from venoms. These sequences aid in the identification and characterization of venom proteome profiles, allowing for the identification of peptide sequences, specific isoforms, and novel venom proteins. The application of this technique will help to provide venom protein sequences for many snake species, including understudied rear-fanged snakes. Venom protein transcripts offer important insights into potential snakebite envenomation profiles and the molecular evolution of venom protein multigene families. By requiring only venom to obtain venom protein cDNAs, the approach detailed here will provide access to cDNA-based protein sequences from commercial and other venom sources, facilitating study of snake venom protein composition and evolution.
PMCID: PMC4900637  PMID: 27280639
16.  Molecular, Immunological, and Biological Characterization of Tityus serrulatus Venom Hyaluronidase: New Insights into Its Role in Envenomation 
Scorpionism is a public health problem in Brazil, and Tityus serrulatus (Ts) is primarily responsible for severe accidents. The main toxic components of Ts venom are low-molecular-weight neurotoxins; however, the venom also contains poorly characterized high-molecular-weight enzymes. Hyaluronidase is one such enzyme that has been poorly characterized.
Methods and principal findings
We examined clones from a cDNA library of the Ts venom gland and described two novel isoforms of hyaluronidase, TsHyal-1 and TsHyal-2. The isoforms are 83% identical, and alignment of their predicted amino acid sequences with other hyaluronidases showed conserved residues between evolutionarily distant organisms. We performed gel filtration followed by reversed-phase chromatography to purify native hyaluronidase from Ts venom. Purified native Ts hyaluronidase was used to produce anti-hyaluronidase serum in rabbits. As little as 0.94 µl of anti-hyaluronidase serum neutralized 1 LD50 (13.2 µg) of Ts venom hyaluronidase activity in vitro. In vivo neutralization assays showed that 121.6 µl of anti-hyaluronidase serum inhibited mouse death 100%, whereas 60.8 µl and 15.2 µl of serum delayed mouse death. Inhibition of death was also achieved by using the hyaluronidase pharmacological inhibitor aristolochic acid. Addition of native Ts hyaluronidase (0.418 µg) to pre-neutralized Ts venom (13.2 µg venom+0.94 µl anti-hyaluronidase serum) reversed mouse survival. We used the SPOT method to map TsHyal-1 and TsHyal-2 epitopes. More peptides were recognized by anti-hyaluronidase serum in TsHyal-1 than in TsHyal-2. Epitopes common to both isoforms included active site residues.
Hyaluronidase inhibition and immunoneutralization reduced the toxic effects of Ts venom. Our results have implications in scorpionism therapy and challenge the notion that only neurotoxins are important to the envenoming process.
Author Summary
In Brazil, accidents with scorpion stings have been a serious public health problem, and Tityus serrulatus (Ts) is primarily responsible for severe accidents. Therefore, efforts have been made to understand the characteristics of the molecules present in scorpion venoms. These venoms are complex mixtures, in which neurotoxins are the main toxic components. Ts venom also contains enzymes, such as hyaluronidase, that have not been well characterized. In this study, we described for the first time two sequences of Ts hyaluronidase isoforms: TsHyal-1 and TsHyal-2. We purified native hyaluronidase from Ts venom and produced anti-hyaluronidase serum in rabbits. This serum neutralized hyaluronidase activity present in Ts venom. In vivo neutralization assays showed that anti-hyaluronidase serum inhibited and delayed mouse death after injection of a lethal dose (50% lethal dose, LD50) of Ts venom. This work confirms the influence of hyaluronidase in Ts venom lethality and paves the way for the development of new strategies for scorpionism therapy.
PMCID: PMC3923731  PMID: 24551256
17.  Toxicity of crude and detoxified Tityus serrulatus venom in anti-venom-producing sheep 
Journal of Veterinary Science  2016;17(4):467-477.
Specific anti-venom used to treat scorpion envenomation is usually obtained from horses after hyperimmunization with crude scorpion venom. However, immunized animals often become ill because of the toxic effects of the immunogens used. This study was conducted to evaluate the toxic and immunogenic activities of crude and detoxified Tityus serrulatus (Ts) venom in sheep during the production of anti-scorpionic anti-venom. Sheep were categorized into three groups: G1, control, immunized with buffer only; G2, immunized with crude Ts venom; and G3, immunized with glutaraldehyde-detoxified Ts venom. All animals were subjected to clinical exams and supplementary tests. G2 sheep showed mild clinical changes, but the other groups tolerated the immunization program well. Specific antibodies generated in animals immunized with either Ts crude venom or glutaraldehyde-detoxified Ts venom recognized the crude Ts venom in both assays. To evaluate the lethality neutralization potential of the produced sera, individual serum samples were pre-incubated with Ts crude venom, then subcutaneously injected into mice. Efficient immune protection of 56.3% and 43.8% against Ts crude venom was observed in G2 and G3, respectively. Overall, the results of this study support the use of sheep and glutaraldehyde-detoxified Ts venom for alternative production of specific anti-venom.
PMCID: PMC5204024  PMID: 27297422
Tityus serrulatus; anti-venom; glutaraldehyde detoxification; scorpion; sheep
18.  Characterization of Venom and Oviduct Components of Parasitoid Wasp Asobara japonica 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(7):e0160210.
During natural parasitization, Asobara japonica wasps introduce lateral oviduct (LO) components into their Drosophila hosts soon after the venom injection to neutralize its strong toxicity; otherwise, the host will die. Although the orchestrated relationship between the venom and LO components necessary for successful parasitism has attracted the attention of many researchers in this field, the molecular natures of both factors remain ambiguous. We here showed that precipitation of the venom components by ultracentrifugation yielded a toxic fraction that was inactivated by ultraviolet light irradiation, boiling, and sonication, suggesting that it is a virus-like entity. Morphological observation of the precipitate after ultracentrifugation showed small spherical heterogeneous virus-like particles 20–40 nm in diameter. The venom’s detrimental effect on D. melanogaster larvae was not directly neutralized by the LO components but blocked by a hemolymphal neutralizing factor activated by the LO factor. Furthermore, we found that A. japonica venom and LO components acted similarly on the larvae of the common cutworm Spodoptera litura: the venom injection caused mortality but coinjection of the LO factor protected S. litura larvae from the venom’s toxicity. In contrast, D. ficusphila and D. bipectinata, which are closely related to D. melanogaster but non-habitual host species of A. japonica, were not negatively affected by A. japonica venom due to an intrinsic neutralizing activity in their hemolymph, indicating that these species must have acquired a neutralizer of A. japonica venom during evolution. These results give new insights into the characteristics of both the venom and LO components: A. japonica females have utilized the virus-like toxic venom factor to exploit a wider range of host species after the evolutionary process enabled them to use the LO factor for activation of the host hemolymph neutralizer precursor, although the non-habitual host Drosophila species possess an active intrinsic neutralizer in their hemolymph.
PMCID: PMC4965004  PMID: 27467595
19.  Bioinformatics and Multiepitope DNA Immunization to Design Rational Snake Antivenom 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(6):e184.
Snake venom is a potentially lethal and complex mixture of hundreds of functionally diverse proteins that are difficult to purify and hence difficult to characterize. These difficulties have inhibited the development of toxin-targeted therapy, and conventional antivenom is still generated from the sera of horses or sheep immunized with whole venom. Although life-saving, antivenoms contain an immunoglobulin pool of unknown antigen specificity and known redundancy, which necessitates the delivery of large volumes of heterologous immunoglobulin to the envenomed victim, thus increasing the risk of anaphylactoid and serum sickness adverse effects. Here we exploit recent molecular sequence analysis and DNA immunization tools to design more rational toxin-targeted antivenom.
Methods and Findings
We developed a novel bioinformatic strategy that identified sequences encoding immunogenic and structurally significant epitopes from an expressed sequence tag database of a venom gland cDNA library of Echis ocellatus, the most medically important viper in Africa. Focusing upon snake venom metalloproteinases (SVMPs) that are responsible for the severe and frequently lethal hemorrhage in envenomed victims, we identified seven epitopes that we predicted would be represented in all isomers of this multimeric toxin and that we engineered into a single synthetic multiepitope DNA immunogen (epitope string). We compared the specificity and toxin-neutralizing efficacy of antiserum raised against the string to antisera raised against a single SVMP toxin (or domains) or antiserum raised by conventional (whole venom) immunization protocols. The SVMP string antiserum, as predicted in silico, contained antibody specificities to numerous SVMPs in E. ocellatus venom and venoms of several other African vipers. More significantly, the antiserum cross-specifically neutralized hemorrhage induced by E. ocellatus and Cerastes cerastes cerastes venoms.
These data provide valuable sequence and structure/function information of viper venom hemorrhagins but, more importantly, a new opportunity to design toxin-specific antivenoms—the first major conceptual change in antivenom design after more than a century of production. Furthermore, this approach may be adapted to immunotherapy design in other cases where targets are numerous, diverse, and poorly characterized such as those generated by hypermutation or antigenic variation.
Editors' Summary
Of the 3,000 species of snakes worldwide, about 600 are poisonous; poisonous snakes are a particular problem in Africa and Southeast Asia. Because not all victims of snake bites get to hospital, estimates of illness and death caused are very approximate. However, one estimate quoted by the World Health Organization is that 2.5 million snake bites occur each year and 125,000 are fatal. The effects of snake bites vary, obviously depending on which snake does the biting, but immediate effects include swelling (around the bite or of other parts of the body), death of the area around the bite, and blood clotting problems. Nowadays, snake bite is treated with “antivenoms,” which are usually made from immunizing horses or sheep with snake venom. However, these antivenoms contain many different proteins that can themselves trigger unpleasant reactions in the recipient. One problem with developing antivenoms is that venoms contain many hundreds of different proteins, many of which may contribute to the toxic effect.
Why Was This Study Done?
Recent scientific discoveries have led to new ways of finding which parts of an animal's genetic sequence are active in any one particular part of the body, and also whether the proteins produced from these genes are likely to cause illness. A snake's venom gland, where the venom is made, can be analysed this way. The researchers wanted to use this information to develop a more rational way of designing antivenoms.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They studied the venom glands of the carpet viper (Echis ocellatus), the most medically important snake in West Africa. They isolated expressed sequence tags (ESTs) produced by the venom glands. Each EST is a small part of the active part of a gene. They then focused on one group of genes that make proteins called snake venom metalloproteinases (SVMPs), which destroy other proteins, and which cause many of the severe symptoms, such as bleeding, seen after snake bite. They identified seven parts of these SVMPs that were likely to be clinically important, and engineered them into a single string of DNA. This product is known as an immunogen—that is, it can produce an immune response in an animal. And when this immunogen was injected into mice, the researchers found that the serum (the part of the blood that contains antibodies) from these mice did have a specific effect against the SVMPs in snake venom. It also had some effect, again in mice, against bleeding caused by small doses of snake venom.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that it is possible to use some of the newest genetic techniques to design immunogens that can be used to make highly specific, toxin-neutralizing antisera. These immunogens are a possible improvement over conventional antivenoms that are raised against whole venom. This approach could mean that lower doses of antivenoms would be needed than for conventional antivenoms. In addition, it may also be possible to design antivenoms that work against different species of snake venom. Results such as this may persuade a company that it is worth investing further in such antivenoms; as with many diseases of the poorer parts of the world, snake bites have not been of great interest to large pharmaceutical companies. In another paper published in PLoS Medicine, José María Gutiérrez et al. discuss the global problem of snake bites.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
•  World Health Organization page on animal bites, including snakes
•  MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia pages of health information (these pages are most relevant in the US)
Seven epitopes were identified providing valuable sequence and structure/function information of viper venom hemorrhagins. This has created a new opportunity to design toxin-specific antivenoms.
PMCID: PMC1472699  PMID: 16737347
20.  Effects of Crude Oil Exposure on Bioaccumulation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Survival of Adult and Larval Stages of Gelatinous Zooplankton 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e74476.
Gelatinous zooplankton play an important role in marine food webs both as major consumers of metazooplankton and as prey of apex predators (e.g., tuna, sunfish, sea turtles). However, little is known about the effects of crude oil spills on these important components of planktonic communities. We determined the effects of Louisiana light sweet crude oil exposure on survival and bioaccumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in adult stages of the scyphozoans Pelagia noctiluca and Aurelia aurita and the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi, and on survival of ephyra larvae of A. aurita and cydippid larvae of M. leidyi, in the laboratory. Adult P. noctiluca showed 100% mortality at oil concentration ≥20 µL L−1 after 16 h. In contrast, low or non-lethal effects were observed on adult stages of A. aurita and M. leidyi exposed at oil concentration ≤25 µL L−1 after 6 days. Survival of ephyra and cydippid larva decreased with increasing crude oil concentration and exposition time. The median lethal concentration (LC50) for ephyra larvae ranged from 14.41 to 0.15 µL L−1 after 1 and 3 days, respectively. LC50 for cydippid larvae ranged from 14.52 to 8.94 µL L−1 after 3 and 6 days, respectively. We observed selective bioaccumulation of chrysene, phenanthrene and pyrene in A. aurita and chrysene, pyrene, benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, and benzo[a]anthracene in M. leidyi. Overall, our results indicate that (1) A. aurita and M. leidyi adults had a high tolerance to crude oil exposure compared to other zooplankton, whereas P. noctiluca was highly sensitive to crude oil, (2) larval stages of gelatinous zooplankton were more sensitive to crude oil than adult stages, and (3) some of the most toxic PAHs of crude oil can be bioaccumulated in gelatinous zooplankton and potentially be transferred up the food web and contaminate apex predators.
PMCID: PMC3792109  PMID: 24116004
21.  Biochemical and Functional Characterization of Parawixia bistriata Spider Venom with Potential Proteolytic and Larvicidal Activities 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:950538.
Toxins purified from the venom of spiders have high potential to be studied pharmacologically and biochemically. These biomolecules may have biotechnological and therapeutic applications. This study aimed to evaluate the protein content of Parawixia bistriata venom and functionally characterize its proteins that have potential for biotechnological applications. The crude venom showed no phospholipase, hemorrhagic, or anti-Leishmania activities attesting to low genotoxicity and discrete antifungal activity for C. albicans. However the following activities were observed: anticoagulation, edema, myotoxicity and proteolysis on casein, azo-collagen, and fibrinogen. The chromatographic and electrophoretic profiles of the proteins revealed a predominance of acidic, neutral, and polar proteins, highlighting the presence of proteins with high molecular masses. Five fractions were collected using cation exchange chromatography, with the P4 fraction standing out as that of the highest purity. All fractions showed proteolytic activity. The crude venom and fractions P1, P2, and P3 showed larvicidal effects on A. aegypti. Fraction P4 showed the presence of a possible metalloprotease (60 kDa) that has high proteolytic activity on azo-collagen and was inhibited by EDTA. The results presented in this study demonstrate the presence of proteins in the venom of P. bistriata with potential for biotechnological applications.
PMCID: PMC4033418  PMID: 24895632
22.  Two Biological Active Fractions Isolated from Buthotus schach (BS)Scorpion Venom Examined on Striated Muscle Preparation, In-vitro 
Buthotus schach is one of the most dangerous scorpions in tropical part of Iran. The effects of its crude venom at 1, 3, 10 μg/mL and its obtained fractions by gel filtrations were investigated on neuromuscular transmission. CBC and MHD indirectly and directly stimulated preparations techniques were used to study their possible pre or post junctional activities. At 3 and 10 μg/mL (not at 1 μg/mL), BS venom caused initiall increase in twitch height followed by blockage due to large contraction that responded gradually at the same time. Contracture responses to exogenous Ach (1-2 mM, 30 sec) and Carb (30-40 μM, 60 sec) in the presence of the venom were not increased which does show no anticholinstrease effects. Furthermore Contracture response to KCl (20-40 mM, 30 sec) does changed exposure to venom in CBC preparations. On the other hand the effects of the venom in response to directly stimulated preparations was shallower than in indirect stimulated preparations. So in agreement with KCL response BS venom affects mostly prejunctionally to facilitate the neurotransmitter release rather than postjunctionally effects. To access bioactive components, seven fractions were collected by gel filtrations techniques. Among the fractions F6, LD50=21 μg < F4, LD50= 35.5 μg < Venom LD50= 84 μg per mice were more toxic respectively. Both fractions show the same effects but stronger than venom on twitch height responses in indirectly stimulated CBC preparations.
Finally, according to our results venom as well as fractions F4 and F6 act mostly prejunctionally on Ach release. More attempt is carrying out to study their effects on ion channel activities.
PMCID: PMC3813122  PMID: 24250518
Twitch; Purification; Crude venom; Contracture; Buthotus schach
23.  Proteome and phosphoproteome analysis of honeybee (Apis mellifera) venom collected from electrical stimulation and manual extraction of the venom gland 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:766.
Honeybee venom is a complicated defensive toxin that has a wide range of pharmacologically active compounds. Some of these compounds are useful for human therapeutics. There are two major forms of honeybee venom used in pharmacological applications: manually (or reservoir disrupting) extracted glandular venom (GV), and venom extracted through the use of electrical stimulation (ESV). A proteome comparison of these two venom forms and an understanding of the phosphorylation status of ESV, are still very limited. Here, the proteomes of GV and ESV were compared using both gel-based and gel-free proteomics approaches and the phosphoproteome of ESV was determined through the use of TiO2 enrichment.
Of the 43 proteins identified in GV, < 40% were venom toxins, and > 60% of the proteins were non-toxic proteins resulting from contamination by gland tissue damage during extraction and bee death. Of the 17 proteins identified in ESV, 14 proteins (>80%) were venom toxic proteins and most of them were found in higher abundance than in GV. Moreover, two novel proteins (dehydrogenase/reductase SDR family member 11-like and histone H2B.3-like) and three novel phosphorylation sites (icarapin (S43), phospholipase A-2 (T145), and apamin (T23)) were identified.
Our data demonstrate that venom extracted manually is different from venom extracted using ESV, and these differences may be important in their use as pharmacological agents. ESV may be more efficient than GV as a potential pharmacological source because of its higher venom protein content, production efficiency, and without the need to kill honeybee. The three newly identified phosphorylated venom proteins in ESV may elicit a different immune response through the specific recognition of antigenic determinants. The two novel venom proteins extend our proteome coverage of honeybee venom.
PMCID: PMC3835400  PMID: 24199871
Honeybee; Venom; Proteome; Phosphoproteome
24.  Effects of potassium channel toxins from Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus venom on responses to cromakalim in rabbit blood vessels. 
British Journal of Pharmacology  1989;98(3):817-826.
1. The effects of fractionated Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus venom on cromakalim-induced 86Rb+ efflux in rabbit aortic smooth muscle were examined. 2. Crude venom (0.1-30 micrograms ml-1) produced a concentration-dependent decrease of 1 microM cromakalim-induced 86Rb+ response. The maximum blocking activity attainable was approximately 60%. 3. Fractionation of crude venom by gel permeation chromatography and subsequent chromatography on a cation ion-exchange column, produced two fractions (X and XI), active in the 86Rb+ blocking assay. 4. Fraction XII contained charybdotoxin (approximately 85% pure). After a final high performance liquid chromatography (h.p.l.c.) purification step, the purified toxin failed to inhibit the cromakalim-stimulated 86Rb+ efflux although it was a potent inhibitor of A23187-induced K+ flux in human erythrocytes and the large conductance calcium-activated potassium channel in rabbit portal vein smooth muscle. 5. Subsequent purification of fraction X by h.p.l.c. yielded a minor peak which contained 86Rb+ blocking activity. This subfraction was also capable of inhibiting apamin-sensitive, angiotensin II-stimulated K+ flux in guinea-pig hepatocytes. 6. It is concluded that the potassium channel opened by cromakalim in rabbit aortic smooth muscle is not blocked by charybdotoxin but by another distinct toxin in the venom of Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus.
PMCID: PMC1854749  PMID: 2531622
25.  Venom Components of Iranian Scorpion Hemiscorpius lepturus Inhibit the Growth and Replication of Human Immunodeficiency Virus 1 (HIV-1) 
Iranian Biomedical Journal  2016;20(5):259-265.
During the recent years, significant progress has been achieved on development of novel anti-viral drugs. Natural products are assumed as the potential sources of novel anti-viral drugs; therefore, there are some previous studies reporting the anti-viral compounds from venomous animals. Based on the significant value for tracing of non-toxic anti-viral agents from natural resources, this study was aimed to investigate the anti-viral activity of some HPLC purified fractions derived from the venom of Iranian scorpion, Hemiscorpius lepturus, against human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) and herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1).
H. Lepturus crude venom was subjected to reverse phase HPLC analysis to determine its active components precisely where four dominant fractions obtained at retention time of 156-160 minutes. The phospholipase A2 and hemolytic activities of the purified fractions were first evaluated. Then the anti-viral activity was measured using single cycle HIV (NL4-3) replication and HSV (KOS) plaque reduction assays.
The H. lepturus crude venom inhibited HIV replication by 73% at the concentration of 200 µg/ml, while it did not show significant anti-HSV activity. It also inhibited the cell-free viral particles in a virucidal assay, while it showed no toxicity for the target cells in a proliferation assay. The four HPLC fractions purified from H. lepturus inhibited HIV with IC50 of 20 µg/ml.
H. lepturus venom contains components with considerable anti-HIV activity insofar as it has virucidal activity that offers a novel therapeutic approach against HIV infection. Our results suggest a promising pilot for anti-HIV drug discovery with H. lepturus scorpion venom.
PMCID: PMC5075138  PMID: 27594443
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Herpes simplex virus (HSV); Hemiscorpius lepturus; Venom

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