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Spider venom reveals new secret

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Posted August 30, 2013
Spider venom reveals new secret

Spider venom reveals new secret
Loxosceles laeta, a South American recluse spider, is one of three whose venom was tested by the UA researchers. Credit: Jonathan Coddington

University of Arizona researchers led a team that has discovered that venom of spiders in the genus Loxosceles, which contains about 100 spider species including the brown recluse, produces a different chemical product in the human body than scientists believed.

 

The finding has implications for understanding how these spider bites affect humans and development of possible treatments for the bites.

One of few common spiders whose bites can have a seriously harmful effect on humans, brown recluse spider venom contains a rare protein that can cause a blackened lesion at the site of a bite wound, or a much less common, but more dangerous, systemic reaction in humans.

“This is not a protein that is usually found in the venom of poisonous animals,” said Matthew Cordes, an associate professor in the UA’s department of chemistry and biochemistry, who led the study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

The protein, once injected into a bite wound, attacks phospholipid molecules that are the major component of cell membranes. The protein acts to cleave off the head portion of the lipids, leaving behind, scientists long have assumed, a simple, linear, headless lipid molecule.

The research team has discovered that in the test tube, the venom protein causes lipids to bend into a ring structure upon the loss of the head portion, generating a cyclical chemical product that is very different than the linear molecule it was assumed to produce.
Read more at: Phys.org

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