Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Black widow spider venom unveiled: The fast evolution of a potent toxin

Date:
January 6, 2015

Source:
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB)

Summary:
New research shows rapid evolution has helped to make the venom of black widow spiders so toxic.

Dr. Jessica Garb of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, along with a team of collaborators in the US and the UK, has been attacking these questions by studying the spider's genetics, protein expression, and venom content, searching for clues about just how the widow spider's venom evolved to be so potent.

The most potent neurotoxins present in black widow venom are called latrotoxins, which takes its name from the group of widow spiders known as Latrodectus. The most toxic of these latrotoxins is alpha-latrotoxin, a devastatingly debilitating chemical that hijacks the body's own internal communications, the electrical and chemical signaling of the nervous system.

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