Researchers from the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) and the Butantan Institute identified toxins present in tarantula venom Acanthoscurria juruenicolawith potential for the development of drugs and biological insecticides.
In the study, published in the journal Journal of Proteome Researchspecialists characterize for the first time the venom of the species native to the Amazon.
“In 2023 it will be one hundred years since the description of this species and only now has the venom been characterized. Spiders usually have a very small volume of venom, so only the most recent technologies are capable of making a characterization that takes into account the diversity of toxins produced by these animals”, says Alexandre Tashima, professor at the Paulista School of Medicine at the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp) and study coordinator.
The first author of the work is Erika Nishiduka, who carried it out as part of her master’s degree at Unifesp. The study had the participation of researchers from the United States and the support of the State of São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp) through a project coordinated by Unifesp professor Reinaldo Salomão.
In total, the researchers found 92 proteins, 14 of which are cysteine-rich peptides (CRP), a type of molecule common in spider toxins, some with known effects on ion channels and against microorganisms.
Ion channels are proteins used as treatment targets and are studied, for example, as potential analgesic agents.
Furthermore, only three of the 14 CRPs were known in other tarantulas of the same genus, which brings new perspectives for the development of drugs or even biological insecticides.
Some of these CRPs cause insect paralysis and, in synergy with other components, such as phospholipases and hyaluronidases, make the venom an efficient cocktail for prey immobilization. Tests with the injection of small amounts of venom into crickets showed that, 24 hours after the tests, the insects still hadn’t moved again.
In Australia, the demand to protect crops without affecting bees and other animals led to a biological insecticide derived from spider toxins reaching the market.
Previously, the groups from Unifesp and Butantan had studied another species of Acanthoscurria with the same potential. By means of computational tools, the spider’s venom had also shown a possible antimicrobial effect, which may also occur in the species being studied now.
most venomous female
“Although this family of spiders is relatively well known, the species is in the process of accelerated evolution. When we look at toxins at the molecular level, therefore, a change of just a few amino acids can make a big difference in terms of pharmacological effects,” explains Tashima.
Ecological peculiarities may be another reason why closely related species have different toxins. One of them can benefit from a type of prey that requires a more potent venom, for example.
Because of this, the researchers compared the toxins found in males and females of Acanthoscurria juruenicola. A higher concentration of proteins was found in the venom of females. One hypothesis for this would be the need for protection of the eggs by the mothers, which would demand that they have more venom than the males.
The work data were made available in online public repositories, essential for researchers looking for new molecules for drug development and other applications to be able to find candidates for new products.
“Our biodiversity still brings many good surprises, which is why the conservation of the environment is also essential. The solution to many problems may be hidden in species that have not yet been discovered or even in others that have been described for a long time, such as this spider”, concludes the researcher.
Source: CNN Brasil
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