/   Home   /   Newsroom   /   Research News

How Centipedes Slay Giant Prey

Jan 23, 2018     Email"> PrintText Size

[video:20180123-How Centipedes Slay Giant Prey]

Centipede rapidly subdues Kunming mouse (Video by the research group) 

Centipedes are known to subdue large prey by using potent and broad-acting venom. However, venom synthesis requires substantial metabolic investment, and the mechanisms of action of centipede venoms remain unclear.

LAI Ren's group from Kunming Institute of Zoology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the collaborators from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, University of Science and Technology of China, Baylor College of Medicine, reported that in an encounter reminiscent of David and Goliath, a golden head centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans) weighing around 3 g can set upon and subdue a caged laboratory mouse weighing around 45 g within 30 seconds, a single bite of the centipede injecting an estimated 30 μL of crude venom into the mouse.

Biochemical analysis of centipede venom uncovered a previously uncharacterized peptide toxin, dubbed Ssm Spooky Toxin (SsTx), which strongly inhibits KCNQ family potassium ion channels, in particular KCNQ4, which controls pulmonary vascular tone and arterial tension. Structural and functional analysis of this interaction revealed that two specific interacting residue pairs (K13-D266 and R12-D288) are crucial to the toxin's effect on KCNQ4.

In vivo tests further demonstrated that SsTx is the major vasoconstricting principle in venom, and that the toxin reduces respiratory rate and triggers hippocampal seizures in mice as well as inducing vessel spasms, acute hypertension, and myocardial ischemia in macaque monkeys. Most of the toxin-induced effects could be reversed by the channel-opening compound retigabine, which is approved for epilepsy treatment.

The findings, published in PNAS, revealed the molecular targets of centipede venom, which helps the tiny creatures subdue larger-bodied prey, and point to an antidote with clinical promise.

This work was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Yunnan Province.


(Editor: LIU Jia)


Related Articles

blood clot;venom;poisonous snake;artificial venom

Chinese Scientists Use Yeast to Brew Blood Clot Fighting Snake Venom like Beer

Jul 20, 2015

By inserting the genes of a poisonous snake into yeast, Chinese scientists were able to mass produce blood clot fighting venom for the first time. The artificial venom contains a precious protein that could prevent clotting in blood vessels and save ma...

scorpion sting;scorpion;TRPV1;venom

Why Scorpion Stings Deliver an Insufferable Pain

Aug 03, 2017

Scorpion stings are well known to be extremely painful. A recent study conducted by LAI Ren and his colleagues at Kunming Institute of Zoology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, UC Davis in USA and Zhejiang University revealed the molecular mechanism of w...

Manganese (Mn);toxicity;Arabidopsis;auxin;root growth

Manganese Toxicity Affects Root Growth by Mediating Auxin Distribution in Arabidopsis

Mar 17, 2017

Prof. XU Jin and his team from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted a study to investigate the role of auxin in Mn-mediated inhibition of primary root (PR) growth in Arabidopsis using phy...

Contact Us

Copyright © 2002 - Chinese Academy of Sciences