15 April 2009

Careful with the Cephalopods: most found to be venomous

All octopuses and cuttlefish, and some squid are venomous, a recent study has discovered.
Cuttlefish
While many creatures have been examined as a basis for drug development, cephalopods (octopuses, cuttlefish and squid) remain an untapped resource and their venom may represent a unique class of compounds.

This is why we should not touch marine creatures. To avoid hurting both ourselves and them.

Tentacles of venom: new study reveals all octopuses are venomous
University of Melbourne 15 Apr 09;
Once thought to be only the realm of the blue-ringed octopus, researchers have now shown that all octopuses and cuttlefish, and some squid are venomous. The work indicates that they all share a common, ancient venomous ancestor and highlights new avenues for drug discovery.

Conducted by scientists from the University of Melbourne, University of Brussels and Museum Victoria, the study was published in the Journal of Molecular Evolution.

Dr Bryan Fry from the Department of Biochemistry at the Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne said that while the blue-ringed octopus species remain the only group that aredangerous to humans, the other species have been quietly using their venom for predation, such as paralysing a clam into opening its shell.

“Venoms are toxic proteins with specialised functions such as paralysing the nervous system” he said.

“We hope that by understanding the structure and mode of action of venom proteins we can benefit drug design for a range of conditions such as pain management, allergies and cancer.”

While many creatures have been examined as a basis for drug development, cephalopods (octopuses, cuttlefish and squid) remain an untapped resource and their venom may represent a unique class of compounds.

Dr Fry obtained tissue samples from cephalopods ranging from Hong Kong, the Coral Sea, the Great Barrier Reef and Antarctica.

The team then analysed the genes for venom production from the different species and found that a venomous ancestor produced one set of venom proteins, but over time additional proteins were added to the chemical arsenal.

The origin of these genes also sheds light on the fundamentals of evolution, presenting a prime example of convergent evolution where species independently develop similar traits.

The team will now work on understanding why very different types of venomous animals seem to consistently settle on the similar venom protein composition, and which physical or chemical properties make them predisposed to be useful as toxin.

“Not only will this allow us to understand how these animals have assembled their arsenals, but it will also allow us to better exploit them in the development of new drugs from venoms,” said Dr Fry.

“It does not seem a coincidence that some of the same protein types have been recruited for use as toxins across the animal kingdom.”

For more information:
Dr Bryan Fry
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne
Email: bgf@unimelb.edu.au


All cephalopods venomous: study
Sydney Morning Herald 13 Apr 09;
A breakthrough study has discovered all octopuses, cuttlefish and some squid are venomous.

It was previously thought that only the blue-ringed octopus was the one to watch out for.

The study by scientists from the University of Melbourne, University of Brussels and Museum Victoria found that, while the blue-ringed octopus remain the only species dangerous to humans, other groups have been quietly using their venom for predation.

Bryan Fry from the University of Melbourne said venoms were toxic proteins that performed functions such as paralysing the nervous system.

"We hope that by understanding the structure and mode of action of venom proteins we can benefit drug design for a range of conditions such as pain management, allergies and cancer," Dr Fry said.

Octopuses, cuttlefish and squid - known as cephalopods - remain an untapped resource for drug development.

The team analysed tissue samples from cephalopods from Hong Kong, the Coral Sea, the Great Barrier Reef and Antarctica.

The different species' genes were then studied for venom protection and it was found that a venomous ancestor produced one set of venom proteins, but over time additional proteins had added to the chemical arsenal.

Scientists will now work on understanding why different types of venomous animals seem to settle on similar venom protein composition.

The physical and chemical properties which make them predisposed to be useful as toxin will also be studied.

1 comment:

  1. Whoopee! Dr Brian Fry has been involved in plenty of research on venomous reptiles. I think a couple of discoveries that amazed me the most was finding out that many lizards do in fact possess venom.

    And that some sea snake species are actually losing the potency of their venom as they have evolved to specialise on fish eggs.

    http://www.venomdoc.com/

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