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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

An 'Old World' scorpion beta-toxin that recognizes both insect and mammalian sodium channels.

Scorpion toxins that affect sodium channel (NaCh) gating in excitable cells are divided into alpha- and beta-classes. Whereas alpha-toxins have been found in scorpions throughout the world, anti-mammalian beta-toxins have been assigned, thus far, to 'New World' scorpions while anti-insect selective beta-toxins (depressant and excitatory) have been described only in the 'Old World'. This distribution suggested that diversification of beta-toxins into distinct pharmacological groups occurred after the separation of the continents, 150 million years ago. We have characterized a unique toxin, Lqhbeta1, from the 'Old World' scorpion, Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus, that resembles in sequence and activity both 'New World'beta-toxins as well as 'Old World' depressant toxins. Lqhbeta1 competes, with apparent high affinity, with anti-insect and anti-mammalian beta-toxins for binding to cockroach and rat brain synaptosomes, respectively. Surprisingly, Lqhbeta1 also competes with an anti-mammalian alpha-toxin on binding to rat brain NaChs. Analysis of Lqhbeta1 effects on rat brain and Drosophila Para NaChs expressed in Xenopus oocytes revealed a shift in the voltage-dependence of activation to more negative membrane potentials and a reduction in sodium peak currents in a manner typifying beta-toxin activity. Moreover, Lqhbeta1 resembles beta-toxins by having a weak effect on cardiac NaChs and a marked effect on rat brain and skeletal muscle NaChs. These multifaceted features suggest that Lqhbeta1 may represent an ancestral beta-toxin group in 'Old World' scorpions that gave rise, after the separation of the continents, to depressant toxins in 'Old World' scorpions and to various beta-toxin subgroups in 'New World' scorpions.[1]


  1. An 'Old World' scorpion beta-toxin that recognizes both insect and mammalian sodium channels. Gordon, D., Ilan, N., Zilberberg, N., Gilles, N., Urbach, D., Cohen, L., Karbat, I., Froy, O., Gaathon, A., Kallen, R.G., Benveniste, M., Gurevitz, M. Eur. J. Biochem. (2003) [Pubmed]
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