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The lethal toxin from Australian funnel-web spiders is encoded by an intronless gene


Australian funnel-web spiders are generally considered the most dangerous spiders in the world, with envenomations from the Sydney funnel-web spider Atrax robustus resulting in at least 14 human fatalities prior to the introduction of an effective anti-venom in 1980. The clinical envenomation syndrome resulting from bites by Australian funnel-web spiders is due to a single 42-residue peptide known as delta-hexatoxin. This peptide delays the inactivation of voltage-gated sodium channels, which results in spontaneous repetitive firing and prolongation of action potentials, thereby causing massive neurotransmitter release from both somatic and autonomic nerve endings. Here we show that delta-hexatoxin from the Australian funnel-web spider Hadronyche versuta is produced from an intronless gene that encodes a prepropeptide that is post-translationally processed to yield the mature toxin. A limited sampling of genes encoding unrelated venom peptides from this spider indicated that they are all intronless. Thus, in distinct contrast to cone snails and scorpions, whose toxin genes contain introns, spiders may have developed a quite different genetic strategy for evolving their venom peptidome. PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43699. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043699. Epub 2012 Aug 22.

Type Journal
ISBN 1932-6203 (Electronic) 1932-6203 (Linking)
Authors Pineda, S. S.; Wilson, D.; Mattick, J. S.; King, G. F.;
Publisher Name PLoS One
Published Date 2012-01-01
Published Volume 7
Published Issue 8
Published Pages e43699
Status Published in-print
URL link to publisher's version
OpenAccess link to author's accepted manuscript version