• How Does Spider Venom Vary Over Time? - Chromatography Investigates


How Does Spider Venom Vary Over Time? - Chromatography Investigates

Jan 05 2021

Spider venom is an amazing mixture, a complex blend of proteins and smaller molecules that can induce an array of responses in biological systems across a variety of species. The complexity and molecular make-up of different spider venoms alongside their potency in numerous systems means that they are of interest to researchers and scientists. Spider venoms have been used as a source of active molecules for therapeutic and bioinsecticide uses.

But not all spider venom is the same. It varies between species depending on sex, climate, and environment. But what about in an individual? How does it change? Researchers in Cairns, Australia have carried out research into spider variation and published the results in the journal Toxicon: X in a paper titles Variation in venom composition in the Australian funnel-web spiders Hadronyche valida. Chromatography provided the key results.

Venom – kill and protect

Australian funnel-web spiders are of interest to researchers because the components of their venom cause a reaction in humans that can in some cases lead to death. Also, there is an extraordinary breadth to their venom components that could be a starting point for researchers looking for bioactive molecules that could lead to commercial discoveries of new drugs and therapies. The complexity of their venom composition is likely to be linked to the prey availability in the many different habitats they can be found.

Venom from funnel-web spiders can be deadly to humans. Once bitten by these spiders, people suffer pain, breathing problems, confusion, and high blood pressure. The venom can kill in a few hours if the patient is not treated quickly. Researchers assumed that this was just a quirk of nature, that venom evolved to kill prey also kills other animals. Except, the venom doesn’t kill many mammals – only humans and primates. Cats, dogs, and rabbits for example all can shake off the venom. This has led researchers to believe that the venom components that kill humans were evolved to protect spiders. Venom is not only to kill but to protect.

Chromatography analyses the peptides

The researchers in Australia were interested in seeing the intra- and inter-specific variation in funnel-web spider venom over time. By monitoring the changes over time and noting the conditions and factors that could affect the spiders, they might gain a better understanding of the evolution and characterization of spider venom.

The used liquid chromatography/electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry (LC/ESI-MS) to analyse the venom. The use of chromatography to analyse potentially useful substances is discussed in the article, LC-MS Analysis of Therapeutic Oligonucleotide and Related Products. A comparison of TQ and Q-TOF Systems. The researchers identified several factors that could affect venom variation in the spiders. Both intra- and inter-individual varies over time because of different stimuli over time.

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