Scorpion venom is a mixture of peptides, including antimicrobial, bradykinin-potentiating and anionic peptides and small to medium proteins, such as ion channel toxins, metalloproteinases and phospholipases that together cause severe clinical manifestation. Tityus bahiensis is the second most medically important scorpion species in Brazil and it is widely distributed in the country with the exception of the North Region. Here we sequenced and analyzed the transcripts from the venom glands of T. bahiensis, aiming at identifying and annotating venom gland expressed genes. A total of 116,027 long reads were generated by pyrosequencing and assembled in 2891 isotigs. An annotation process identified transcripts by similarity to known toxins, revealing that putative venom components represent 7.4% of gene expression. The major toxins identified are potassium and sodium channel toxins, whereas metalloproteinases showed an unexpected high abundance. Phylogenetic analysis of deduced metalloproteinases from T. bahiensis and other scorpions revealed a pattern of ancient and intraspecific gene expansions. Other venom molecules identified include antimicrobial, anionic and bradykinin-potentiating peptides, besides several putative new venom components. This report provides the first attempt to massively identify the venom components of this species and constitutes one of the few transcriptomic efforts on the genus Tityus.
BackgroundExcept for the northern region, where the Amazonian black scorpion, T. obscurus, represents the predominant and most medically relevant scorpion species, Tityus serrulatus, the Brazilian yellow scorpion, is widely distributed throughout Brazil, causing most envenoming and fatalities due to scorpion sting. In order to evaluate and compare the diversity of venom components of Tityus obscurus and T. serrulatus, we performed a transcriptomic investigation of the telsons (venom glands) corroborated by a shotgun proteomic analysis of the venom from the two species.ResultsThe putative venom components represented 11.4% and 16.7% of the total gene expression for T. obscurus and T. serrulatus, respectively. Transcriptome and proteome data revealed high abundance of metalloproteinases sequences followed by sodium and potassium channel toxins, making the toxin core of the venom. The phylogenetic analysis of metalloproteinases from T. obscurus and T. serrulatus suggested an intraspecific gene expansion, as we previously observed for T. bahiensis, indicating that this enzyme may be under evolutionary pressure for diversification. We also identified several putative venom components such as anionic peptides, antimicrobial peptides, bradykinin-potentiating peptide, cysteine rich protein, serine proteinases, cathepsins, angiotensin-converting enzyme, endothelin-converting enzyme and chymotrypsin like protein, proteinases inhibitors, phospholipases and hyaluronidases.ConclusionThe present work shows that the venom composition of these two allopatric species of Tityus are considerably similar in terms of the major classes of proteins produced and secreted, although their individual toxin sequences are considerably divergent. These differences at amino acid level may reflect in different epitopes for the same protein classes in each species, explaining the basis for the poor recognition of T. obscurus venom by the antiserum raised against other species.
A great number of studies on scorpion venoms associate their effects to the autonomic nervous system, and few data are available about their action on the central nervous system (CNS). The aim of this work was to evaluate some central effects after intraperitoneal injection of Tityus serrulatus or T. bahiensis scorpion venoms. The hippocampal concentration of some neurotransmitters and their metabolites were determined. Electroencephalographic and behavioral observations were performed, and all brains were removed for histopathological analysis of hippocampal areas. Both venoms induced electrographic and behavioral alterations despite T. bahiensis venom affects less the electrographic activity than T. serrulatus venom. Neurochemical analysis demonstrated no alteration in the extracellular levels of almost all the neurotransmitters evaluated, at least in the hippocampus, and no neuronal loss in this area was observed. Meanwhile, extracellular concentration of HVA increased up to 10 times in approximately 1/3 of the animals of both groups. Scorpion venoms seem to exert a small but important central effect. More studies in this field are necessary because they may be useful in developing new strategies to reduce the damage caused by scorpion stings.
In Brazil, the scorpion species responsible for most severe incidents belong to the Tityus genus and, among this group, T. serrulatus, T. bahiensis, T. stigmurus and T. obscurus are the most dangerous ones. Other species such as T. metuendus, T. silvestres, T. brazilae, T. confluens, T. costatus, T. fasciolatus and T. neglectus are also found in the country, but the incidence and severity of accidents caused by them are lower. The main effects caused by scorpion venoms – such as myocardial damage, cardiac arrhythmias, pulmonary edema and shock – are mainly due to the release of mediators from the autonomic nervous system. On the other hand, some evidence show the participation of the central nervous system and inflammatory response in the process. The participation of the central nervous system in envenoming has always been questioned. Some authors claim that the central effects would be a consequence of peripheral stimulation and would be the result, not the cause, of the envenoming process. Because, they say, at least in adult individuals, the venom would be unable to cross the blood-brain barrier. In contrast, there is some evidence showing the direct participation of the central nervous system in the envenoming process. This review summarizes the major findings on the effects of Brazilian scorpion venoms on the central nervous system, both clinically and experimentally. Most of the studies have been performed with T. serrulatus and T. bahiensis. Little information is available regarding the other Brazilian Tityus species.
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