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Snake spills venomous secrets
Date:11/17/2011

ins Research Center at Texas A&M University.

By exposing neurons cultured in Petri dishes to the various venoms, Bohlen found that the venom from the Texas coral snake targets a receptor protein found on nerve endings all over the body that is sensitive to acid.

Our nerves are very sensitive to acid think lemon juice on a paper cut and for good reason: acid is often an early warning sign for injury.

The researchers found that the snake venom contains two proteins that bind to each other and attach themselves to the human acid receptors much tighter than acid itself does. The proteins also resist being degraded, which may account for their ability to remain on the channels for a long period of time much longer than acid would.

According to Julius, this accounts for the prolonged, intense pain suffered by people bitten by the coral viper.

The toxin provides a tool for looking at the physiological effects of pain receptors, he said. It also suggests that naturally produced components of the human body might be able to mimic the effect of the toxin as part of the normal physiology of modulating pain through these receptors. Having an activator for this channel, like the snake venom, will help researchers search for such natural products and use them in the design of new compounds to block pain.

Moreover the snake venom was found to target a human protein known as the acid-sensing ion channel 1 (ASIC1). For years work in the field has focused on a similar receptor called ASIC3. The work on the Texas coral snake has suggested for the first time that ASIC1 may be a viable target for painkillers.


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Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
jason.bardi@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert  

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