For more than half a century, cytotoxic agents have been investigated as a possible treatment for cancer. Research on animal venoms has revealed their high toxicity on tissues and cell cultures, both normal and tumoral. Snake venoms show the highest cytotoxic potential, since ophidian accidents cause a large amount of tissue damage, suggesting a promising utilization of these venoms or their components as antitumoral agents. Over the last few years, we have studied the effects of snake venoms and their isolated enzymes on tumor cell cultures. Some in vivo assays showed antineoplastic activity against induced tumors in mice. In human beings, both the crude venom and isolated enzymes revealed antitumor activities in preliminary assays, with measurable clinical responses in the advanced treatment phase. These enzymes include metalloproteases (MP), disintegrins, L-amino acid oxidases (LAAOs), C-type lectins, and phospholipases A2 (PLA2s). Their mechanisms of action include direct toxic action (PLA2s), free radical generation (LAAOs), apoptosis induction (PLA2s, MP, and LAAOs), and antiangiogenesis (disintegrins and lectins). Higher cytotoxic and cytostatic activities upon tumor cells than normal cells suggest the possibility for clinical applications. Further studies should be conducted to ensure the efficacy and safety of different snake venom compounds for cancer drug development.
Envenomations due to snake bites are commonly treated by parenteral administration of horse or sheep-derived polyclonal antivenoms aimed at the neutralization of toxins. However, despite the widespread success of this therapy, it is still important to search for different venom inhibitors, either synthetic or natural, that could complement or substitute for the action of antivenoms. Several plants have been utilized in folk medicine as antiophidian. However, only a few species have been scientifically investigated and still less had their active components isolated and characterized both structurally and functionally. This article presents a review of plants showing neutralizing properties against snake venoms which were assayed in research laboratories, correlating them with ethnopharmacological studies, as (i) the part of the plant used as antidote, (ii) its respective genus and family and (iii) inhibition of the main pharmacological, toxic and enzymatic activities of snake venoms and isolated toxins. Protective activity of many of these plants against the lethal action of snake venoms has been confirmed by biological assays. Compounds in all of them belong to chemical classes capable of interacting with macromolecular targets (enzymes or receptors). Popular culture can often help to guide scientific studies. In addition, biotechnological application of these inhibitors, as helpful alternative or supplemental treatments to serum therapy, and also as important models for synthesis of new drugs of medical interest, needs to be better oriented and scientifically explored.
Tityus serrulatus is considered the most dangerous scorpion in South America and responsible for most of the fatal cases. This review will focus on Tityus serrulatus scorpion venom (Tsv), its long-chain Na(+)-channel toxins (NaTx), which include alpha- and beta-neurotoxins, short-chain K(+)-channel toxins (KTx), hyaluronidase, proteases and other peptides hitherto identified.
Phospholipases A2 (PLA2s) are commonly found in snake venoms from Viperidae, Hydrophidae and Elaphidae families and have been extensively studied due to their pharmacological and physiopathological effects in living organisms. This article reports a review on natural and artificial inhibitors of enzymatic, toxic and pharmacological effects induced by snake venom PLA2s. These inhibitors act on PLA2s through different mechanisms, most of them still not completely understood, including binding to specific domains, denaturation, modification of specific amino acid residues and others. Several substances have been evaluated regarding their effects against snake venoms and isolated toxins, including plant extracts and compounds from marine animals, mammals and snakes serum plasma, in addition to poly or monoclonal antibodies and several synthetic molecules. Research involving these inhibitors may be useful to understand the mechanism of action of PLA2s and their role in envenomations caused by snake bite. Furthermore, the biotechnological potential of PLA2 inhibitors may provide therapeutic molecular models with antiophidian activity to supplement the conventional serum therapy against these multifunctional enzymes.
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