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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.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  Resistance of cervical adenocarcinoma cells (HeLa) to venom from the scorpion Centruroides limpidus limpidus 
The venom of Centruroides limpidus limpidus (Cll) is a mixture of pharmacologically active principles. The most important of these are toxic proteins that interact both selectively and specifically with different cellular targets such as ion channels. Recently, anticancer properties of the venom from other scorpion species have been described. Studies in vitro have shown that scorpion venom induces cell death, inhibits proliferation and triggers the apoptotic pathway in different cancer cell lines. Herein, after treating human cervical adenocarcinoma (HeLa) cells with Cll crude venom, their cytotoxic activity and apoptosis induction were assessed.
Cll crude venom induced cell death in normal macrophages in a dose-dependent manner. However, through viability assays, HeLa cells showed high survival rates after exposure to Cll venom. Also, Cll venom did not induce apoptosis after performing ethidium bromide/acridine orange assays, nor was there any evidence of chromatin condensation or DNA fragmentation.
Crude Cll venom exposure was not detrimental to HeLa cell cultures. This may be partially attributable to the absence of specific HeLa cell membrane targets for molecules present in the venom of Centruroides limpidus limpidus. Although these results might discourage additional studies exploring the potential of Cll venom to treat human papilloma cervical cancer, further research is required to explore positive effects of crude Cll venom on other cancer cell lines.
PMCID: PMC3844314  PMID: 24004568
Scorpion venoms; Cytotoxic tests; Apoptosis; HeLa cells; Anticancer agents; Centruroides toxins
14.  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
15.  Effects of Lonomia obliqua caterpillar venom upon the proliferation and viability of cell lines 
Cytotechnology  2013;66(1):63-74.
Many active principles produced by animals, plants and microorganisms have been employed in the development of new drugs for the treatment of human diseases. Among animals known to produce pharmacologically active molecules that interfere in human cell physiology, the caterpillar Lonomia obliqua has become the focus of toxicological studies due to recent findings about its venom constituents. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of L. obliqua venom upon the viability and the proliferation of different cell lineages and to propose mechanisms for the herein observed induction of cell proliferation in glioma cell lines. MTT analyses indicate that L. obliqua venom increases the viability of tumor cell lines U138-MG and HT-29; on the other hand, it inhibits the viability of V-79 nontumor cells. Cell count based on the trypan blue exclusion method suggests a proliferating activity of the venom upon U138-MG cells. Exposure of U138-MG to crude venom extract led to a decrease in the production of nitric oxide, and activation of the cAMP signaling pathway inhibited the effects of the venom, indicating that these mechanisms may influence cell proliferation triggered by the venom. Despite the proliferative effects of crude venom on U138-MG and HT-29 cell cultures, a protein purified from L. obliqua hemolymph previously shown to have cytoprotective activity had no effect on U138-MG and HT-29; however, this same protein increased the viability of V-79 cells that had previously been exposed to the cytotoxic activity of the crude venom extract. This study indicates that the venom and the antiapoptotic protein act differently and have different effects on cell cultures, depending on the cell line analyzed. Biomolecules displaying either mitogenic or cytotoxic activities are of great biotechnological interest. Further studies encompassing the purification of active principles from L. obliqua venom are necessary to further elucidate its effects on different cell types.
PMCID: PMC3886532  PMID: 23338857
Lonomia obliqua; Caterpillar; Venom; Cell proliferation; Cell viability; Glioma
16.  Intraspecific Variation of Centruroides Edwardsii Venom from Two Regions of Colombia 
Toxins  2014;6(7):2082-2096.
We report the first description studies, partial characterization, and intraspecific difference of Centruroides edwardsii, Gervais 1843, venom. C. edwardsii from two Colombian regions (Antioquia and Tolima) were evaluated. Both venoms showed hemolytic activity, possibly dependent of enzymatic active phospholipases, and neither coagulant nor proteolytic activities were observed. Venom electrophoretic profile showed significant differences between C. edwardsii venom from both regions. A high concentration of proteins with molecular masses between 31 kDa and 97.4 kDa, and an important concentration close or below 14.4 kDa were detected. RP-HPLC retention times between 38.2 min and 42.1 min, showed bands close to 14.4 kDa, which may correspond to phospholipases. RP-HPLC venom profile showed a well conserved region in both venoms between 7 and 17 min, after this, significant differences were detected. From Tolima region venom, 50 well-defined peaks were detected, while in the Antioquia region venom, 55 well-defined peaks were detected. Larvicidal activity was only detected in the C. edwardsii venom from Antioquia. No antimicrobial activity was observed using complete venom or RP-HPLC collected fractions of both venoms. Lethally activity (carried out on female albino swiss mice) was detected at doses over 19.2 mg/kg of crude venom. Toxic effects included distress, excitability, eye irritation and secretions, hyperventilation, ataxia, paralysis, and salivation.
PMCID: PMC4113743  PMID: 25025710
intraspecific variation; Centruroides edwardsii; phospholipases; lethal activity; RP-HPLC
17.  Bothrops Jararaca Venom: Insights into the Ontogenetic Variation from Pharmacological and Proteomic Approaches 
Previous studies have demonstrated that the pharmacological activities displayed by the venom of the snake Bothrops jararaca undergo a significant ontogenetic shift. Variation in the venom proteome is a well-documented phenomenon, however, variation in the venom peptidome is poorly understood. We report a comparative proteomic and peptidomic analysis of venoms from newborn and adult specimens of B. jararaca and correlate it with the evaluation of important venom features. We demonstrate that newborn and adult venoms have similar hemorrhagic activities, while the adult venom has a slightly higher lethal activity upon mice; however, the newborn venom is extremely more potent to kill chicks. The coagulant activity of newborn venom upon human plasma is ten times higher than that of adult venom. These differences were clearly reflected in their different profiles of 2D-PAGE and spot identification, gelatin zimography, immunostaining using specific antibodies, glycosylation pattern, and concanavalin A-binding proteins. The venom comparison by isobaric tag peptide labeling (iTRAQ) revealed clear differences in toxin levels. Metalloproteinases, serine proteinases and growth factors are among the proteins with higher expression in adult venom. Furthermore, we report the analysis of the peptide fraction of newborn and adult venoms by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and LC/MS/MS which revealed different contents of peptides, while the bradykinin potentiating peptides (BPPs) showed rather similar profiles, and were detected in the venoms showing their canonical sequences and also novel sequences corresponding to BPPs processed from their precursor protein at sites so far not described. As a result of these studies, we demonstrate a clear relationship between the ontogenetic shift in diet and animal size, and the venom proteome/peptidome in B. jararaca species.
PMCID: PMC2918092
18.  Crovirin, a Snake Venom Cysteine-Rich Secretory Protein (CRISP) with Promising Activity against Trypanosomes and Leishmania 
The neglected human diseases caused by trypanosomatids are currently treated with toxic therapy with limited efficacy. In search for novel anti-trypanosomatid agents, we showed previously that the Crotalus viridis viridis (Cvv) snake venom was active against infective forms of Trypanosoma cruzi. Here, we describe the purification of crovirin, a cysteine-rich secretory protein (CRISP) from Cvv venom with promising activity against trypanosomes and Leishmania.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Crude venom extract was loaded onto a reverse phase analytical (C8) column using a high performance liquid chromatographer. A linear gradient of water/acetonitrile with 0.1% trifluoroacetic acid was used. The peak containing the isolated protein (confirmed by SDS-PAGE and mass spectrometry) was collected and its protein content was measured. T. cruzi trypomastigotes and amastigotes, L. amazonensis promastigotes and amastigotes and T. brucei rhodesiense procyclic and bloodstream trypomastigotes were challenged with crovirin, whose toxicity was tested against LLC-MK2 cells, peritoneal macrophages and isolated murine extensor digitorum longus muscle. We purified a single protein from Cvv venom corresponding, according to Nano-LC MS/MS sequencing, to a CRISP of 24,893.64 Da, henceforth referred to as crovirin. Human infective trypanosomatid forms, including intracellular amastigotes, were sensitive to crovirin, with low IC50 or LD50 values (1.10–2.38 µg/ml). A considerably higher concentration (20 µg/ml) of crovirin was required to elicit only limited toxicity on mammalian cells.
This is the first report of CRISP anti-protozoal activity, and suggests that other members of this family might have potential as drugs or drug leads for the development of novel agents against trypanosomatid-borne neglected diseases.
Author Summary
The pathogenic trypanosomatid parasites of the genera Leishmania and Trypanosoma infect over 20 million people worldwide, with an annual incidence of ∼3 million new infections. An additional 400 million people are at risk of infection by exposure to parasite-infected insects which act as disease vectors. Trypanosomatid-borne diseases predominant in poorer nation and are considered neglected, having failed to attract the attention of the pharmaceutical industry. However, novel therapy is sorely needed for Trypanosoma and Leishmania infections, currently treated with ‘dated’ drugs that are often difficult to administer in resource-limiting conditions, have high toxicity and are by no means always successful, partly due to the emergence of drug resistance. The last few decades have witnessed a growing interest in examining the potential of bioactive toxins and poisons as drugs or drug leads, as well as for diagnostic applications. In this context, we isolated and purified crovirin, a protein from the Crotalus viridis viridis (Cvv) snake venom capable to inhibiting and/or lysing infective forms of trypanosomatid parasites, at concentrations that are not toxic to host cells. This feature makes crovirin a promising candidate protein for the development of novel therapy against neglected diseases caused by trypanosomatid pathogens.
PMCID: PMC4199522  PMID: 25330220
19.  Snake Venom Cytotoxins, Phospholipase A2s, and Zn2+-dependent Metalloproteinases: Mechanisms of Action and Pharmacological Relevance 
Journal of clinical toxicology  2014;4(1):1000181-.
Snake venom toxins are responsible for causing severe pathology and toxicity following envenomation including necrosis, apoptosis, neurotoxicity, myotoxicity, cardiotoxicity, profuse hemorrhage, and disruption of blood homeostasis. Clinically, snake venom toxins therefore represent a significant hazard to snakebite victims which underscores the need to produce more efficient anti-venom. Some snake venom toxins, however, have great potential as drugs for treating human diseases. In this review, we discuss the biochemistry, structure/function, and pathology induced by snake venom toxins on human tissue. We provide a broad overview of cobra venom cytotoxins, catalytically active and inactive phospholipase A2s (PLA2s), and Zn2+-dependent metalloproteinases. We also propose biomedical applications whereby snake venom toxins can be employed for treating human diseases. Cobra venom cytotoxins, for example, may be utilized as anti-cancer agents since they are efficient at destroying certain types of cancer cells including leukemia. Additionally, increasing our understanding of the molecular mechanism(s) by which snake venom PLA2s promote hydrolysis of cell membrane phospholipids can give insight into the underlying biomedical implications for treating autoimmune disorders that are caused by dysregulated endogenous PLA2 activity. Lastly, we provide an exhaustive overview of snake venom Zn2+-dependent metalloproteinases and suggest ways by which these enzymes can be engineered for treating deep vein thrombosis and neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC4060629  PMID: 24949227
20.  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
21.  Evaluation of the Lethal Potency of Scorpion and Snake Venoms and Comparison between Intraperitoneal and Intravenous Injection Routes 
Toxins  2014;6(6):1873-1881.
Scorpion stings and snake bites are major health hazards that lead to suffering of victims and high mortality. Thousands of injuries associated with such stings and bites of venomous animals occur every year worldwide. In North Africa, more than 100,000 scorpion stings and snake bites are reported annually. An appropriate determination of the 50% lethal doses (LD50) of scorpion and snake venoms appears to be an important step to assess (and compare) venom toxic activity. Such LD50 values are also commonly used to evaluate the neutralizing capacity of specific anti-venom batches. In the present work, we determined experimentally the LD50 values of reference scorpion and snake venoms in Swiss mice, and evaluated the influence of two main venom injection routes (i.e., intraperitoneal (IP) versus intravenous (IV)). The analysis of experimental LD50 values obtained with three collected scorpion venoms indicates that Androctonus mauretanicus (Am) is intrinsically more toxic than Androctonus australis hector (Aah) species, whereas the latter is more toxic than Buthus occitanus (Bo). Similar analysis of three representative snake venoms of the Viperidae family shows that Cerastes cerastes (Cc) is more toxic than either Bitis arietans (Ba) or Macrovipera lebetina (Ml) species. Interestingly, the venom of Elapidae cobra snake Naja haje (Nh) is far more toxic than viper venoms Cc, Ml and Ba, in agreement with the known severity of cobra-related envenomation. Also, our data showed that viper venoms are about three-times less toxic when injected IP as compared to IV, distinct from cobra venom Nh which exhibited a similar toxicity when injected IP or IV. Overall, this study clearly highlights the usefulness of procedure standardization, especially regarding the administration route, for evaluating the relative toxicity of individual animal venoms. It also evidenced a marked difference in lethal activity between venoms of cobra and vipers, which, apart from the nature of toxins, might be attributed to the rich composition of high molecular weight enzymes in the case of viper venoms.
PMCID: PMC4073134  PMID: 24926799
scorpion; snake; venoms; animal toxins; lethal activity; toxicity
22.  Venom of the Brazilian Spider Sicarius ornatus (Araneae, Sicariidae) Contains Active Sphingomyelinase D: Potential for Toxicity after Envenomation 
The spider family Sicariidae includes two genera, Sicarius and Loxosceles. Bites by Sicarius are uncommon in humans and, in Brazil, a single report is known of a 17-year old man bitten by a Sicarius species that developed a necrotic lesion similar to that caused by Loxosceles. Envenomation by Loxosceles spiders can result in dermonecrosis and severe ulceration. Sicarius and Loxosceles spider venoms share a common characteristic, i.e., the presence of Sphingomyelinases D (SMase D). We have previously shown that Loxosceles SMase D is the enzyme responsible for the main pathological effects of the venom. Recently, it was demonstrated that Sicarius species from Africa, like Loxosceles spiders from the Americas, present high venom SMase D activity. However, despite the presence of SMase D like proteins in venoms of several New World Sicarius species, they had reduced or no detectable SMase D activity. In order to contribute to a better understanding about the toxicity of New World Sicarius venoms, the aim of this study was to characterize the toxic properties of male and female venoms from the Brazilian Sicarius ornatus spider and compare these with venoms from Loxosceles species of medical importance in Brazil.
Methodology/Principal Findings
SDS-PAGE analysis showed variations in the composition of Loxosceles spp. and Sicarius ornatus venoms. Differences in the electrophoretic profiles of male and female venoms were also observed, indicating a possible intraspecific variation in the composition of the venom of Sicarius spider. The major component in all tested venoms had a Mr of 32–35 kDa, which was recognized by antiserum raised against Loxosceles SMases D. Moreover, male and female Sicarius ornatus spiders' venoms were able to hydrolyze sphingomyelin, thus showing an enzymatic activity similar to that determined for Loxosceles venoms. Sicarius ornatus venoms, as well as Loxosceles venoms, were able to render erythrocytes susceptible to lysis by autologous serum and to induce a significant loss of human keratinocyte cell viability; the female Sicarius ornatus venom was more efficient than male.
We show here, for the first time, that the Brazilian Sicarius ornatus spider contains active Sphingomyelinase D and is able to cause haemolysis and keratinocyte cell death similar to the South American Loxosceles species, harmful effects that are associated with the presence of active SMases D. These results may suggest that envenomation by this Sicarius spider has the potential to cause similar pathological events as that caused by Loxosceles envenomation. Our results also suggest that, in addition to the interspecific differences, intraspecific variations in the venoms composition may play a role in the toxic potential of the New World Sicarius venoms species.
Author Summary
The spider family Sicariidae includes two genera, Sicarius and Loxosceles. These spiders' venoms share a common characteristic, i.e., the presence of Sphingomyelinases D (SMase D). This toxin is the main component responsible for the local and systemic effects observed in loxoscelism. In the present study, we have investigated the toxic potential of male and female Brazilian Sicarius ornatus spider venoms and compared these with the venoms from Loxosceles species of medical importance in Brazil. We show here that Brazilian Sicarius ornatus venom is endowed with all toxic in vitro and ex vivo biological properties ascribed to the venoms from Loxosceles species, including the abilities to hydrolyze sphingomyelin and to induce keratinocyte cell death and complement dependent haemolysis, detrimental effects that were positively associated with the presence of active SMases D and with in vivo pathologies. Therefore, the venom of Sicarius ornatus spider can potentially lead to a similar pathology as that observed for Loxosceles envenomation.
PMCID: PMC3749972  PMID: 23991242
23.  Pharmacokinetics of Naja sumatrana (Equatorial Spitting Cobra) Venom and Its Major Toxins in Experimentally Envenomed Rabbits 
The optimization of snakebite management and the use of antivenom depend greatly on the knowledge of the venom's composition as well as its pharmacokinetics. To date, however, pharmacokinetic reports on cobra venoms and their toxins are still relatively limited. In the present study, we investigated the pharmacokinetics of Naja sumatrana (Equatorial spitting cobra) venom and its major toxins (phospholipase A2, neurotoxin and cardiotoxin), following intravenous and intramuscular administration into rabbits.
Principal findings
The serum antigen concentration-time profile of the N. sumatrana venom and its major toxins injected intravenously fitted a two-compartment model of pharmacokinetics. The systemic clearance (91.3 ml/h), terminal phase half-life (13.6 h) and systemic bioavailability (41.9%) of N. sumatrana venom injected intramuscularly were similar to those of N. sputatrix venom determined in an earlier study. The venom neurotoxin and cardiotoxin reached their peak concentrations within 30 min following intramuscular injection, relatively faster than the phospholipase A2 and whole venom (Tmax = 2 h and 1 h, respectively). Rapid absorption of the neurotoxin and cardiotoxin from the injection site into systemic circulation indicates fast onsets of action of these principal toxins that are responsible for the early systemic manifestation of envenoming. The more prominent role of the neurotoxin in N. sumatrana systemic envenoming is further supported by its significantly higher intramuscular bioavailability (Fi.m. = 81.5%) compared to that of the phospholipase A2 (Fi.m. = 68.6%) or cardiotoxin (Fi.m. = 45.6%). The incomplete absorption of the phospholipase A2 and cardiotoxin may infer the toxins' affinities for tissues at the injection site and their pathological roles in local tissue damages through synergistic interactions.
Our results suggest that the venom neurotoxin is absorbed very rapidly and has the highest bioavailability following intramuscular injection, supporting its role as the principal toxin in systemic envenoming.
Author Summary
Naja sumatrana is a medically important cobra species in Southeast Asia. The optimization of snakebite management and the use of antivenom depend greatly on the knowledge of the venom's composition, its biological activities, as well as its pharmacokinetics. The present study on the pharmacokinetics of N. sumatrana venom shows that the systemic bioavailability of this venom in experimental envenomation is similar to N. sputatrix venom determined in an earlier study. The neurotoxin and cardiotoxin exhibited a more rapid absorption and elimination compared to the phospholipase A2 and the whole venom. The venom neurotoxin produced a higher systemic bioavailability than the cardiotoxin and phospholipase A2, suggesting that the neurotoxin plays the major toxic role in cobra bites.
PMCID: PMC4046969  PMID: 24901441
24.  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
25.  Partial Fractionation of Venoms from Two Iranian Vipers, Echis carinatus and Cerastes persicus Fieldi and Evaluation of Their Antiplatelet Activity  
Platelet aggregation inhibitory effect and anticoagulant properties of fractions separated from the venoms of Cerastes persicus fieldi and Echis carinatus were investigated.
The partial fractionation was performed on a Sephadex G-100 column. Two fractions separated from Cerastes persicus fieldi showed anti platelet aggregation activity on ADP (200 μM)-induced platelet aggregation (ca 80% inhibition). Attempts to measure the antiplatelet aggregation activity of crude Echis carinatus venom and its fractions were not successful due to the protein coagulation of the plasma samples after the addition of venom. Anticoagulant activities of venoms were also evaluated. Total venom of Echis carinatus showed anti coagulant activity in PT test, while its fractions showed procoagulant activity.
PMCID: PMC3813148  PMID: 24250552
Anticoagulant; Antiplatelet aggregation; Snake venom; Echis carinatus; Cerastes persicus fieldi; Gel filtration

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