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Snake venom studies yield insights for development of therapies for heart disease and cancer
Date:7/29/2010

n associate professor at Kogakuin University who specializes in snake toxins. "Some of those toxins prevent platelets from clotting, which can lead to profuse bleeding in snake bite victims. Others, like the one we've focused this research on, potently activate platelets, which results in blood clots. Identification of the molecular targets of many of these toxins has made an enormous contribution to our understanding of platelet activation and related diseases."

Intrigued by the then-recent discovery that elements in snake venom can promote irregular aggregation of platelets the kind that leads to clots and stroke Inoue's and Ozaki's team set out in 1997 to understand better the molecular underpinnings of those chemical reactions. They hoped that whatever they learned could be applied to the search for new therapies for irregular blood clotting caused by disease.

In 2000, another set of investigators came across a protein on the surface of platelets and dubbed it C-type lectin-like receptor 2, or CLEC-2. At the time, it remained unclear how CLEC-2 was produced or what its job was, but the team suspected it was worth further study.

After six years of research and collaborations with British investigators, the team in 2006 discovered how rhodocytin -- a molecule purified from the venom of the Southeast Asia pit viper Calloselasma rhodastoma -- binds to the CLEC-2 receptor protein on the platelet surface, spurring the platelet to clot with others like it.

Then, in another JBC "Paper of the Week" in 2007, Suzuki-Inoue and her colleagues reported how a separate molecule, called podoplanin, binds to the CLEC-2 platelet receptor protein very much like the venom molecule does. Discovered in 1990, podoplanin is a protein expressed on the surface of cancer cells, and, when bound to the CLEC-2 receptor on platelets, it spurs blood clotting, too.

"To shield themselves from the immune system, cancer cells send out a chemical, podo
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Contact: Angela Hopp
ahopp@asbmb.org
301-634-7389
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Source:Eurekalert

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