Scorpion venom -- bad for bugs, good for pesticides

Apr 27, 2011

Fables have long cast scorpions as bad-natured killers of hapless turtles that naively agree to ferry them across rivers. Michigan State University scientists, however, see them in a different light.

Ke Dong, MSU insect toxicologist and neurobiologist, studied the effects of venom with the hopes of finding new ways to protect plants from bugs. The results, which are published in the current issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, have revealed new ways in which the venom works.

Past research identified scorpion toxin's usefulness in the development of . Its venom attacks various channels and receptors that control their prey's nervous and muscular systems. One major target of scorpion toxins is the voltage-gated sodium channel, a protein found in nerve and used for rapid electrical signaling.

"Interestingly, some scorpion toxins selectively affect one type of sodium channels, but not others," Dong said. "The goal of our scorpion toxin project is to understand why certain scorpion toxins act on insect sodium channels, but not their mammalian counterparts."

Dong and a team of researchers were able to identify amino acid residues in insect sodium channels that make the channels more vulnerable to the from the Israeli desert scorpion. The team also discovered that an important sodium channel voltage sensor can influence the potency of the scorpion toxin.

"Investigating the venom's effect on the voltage-gated sodium channel could provide valuable information for designing new insecticides that work by selectively targeting insect sodium channels," Dong said.

Several classes of insecticides act on , but insects become resistant to them over time. The researchers are studying how insects develop resistance and what alternatives can be created to control resistant pests, Dong added.

Explore further: Intracellular imaging gets interactive

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pinch away the pain

Feb 16, 2010

Scorpion venom is notoriously poisonous -- but it might be used as an alternative to dangerous and addictive painkillers like morphine, a Tel Aviv University researcher claims.

Genetic analysis reveals secrets of scorpion venom

Jul 01, 2009

Transcriptomic tests have uncovered the protein composition of venom from the Scorpiops jendeki scorpion. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Genomics have carried out the first ever venom analysis in this arach ...

A deadly scorpion provides a safe pesticide

Jan 11, 2010

Scorpions deliver a powerful, paralyzing venom ― a complex cocktail of poisonous peptides that immobilize animal prey on the spot. Some of the toxins in this cocktail damage only insects, which is why a Tel Aviv University ...

Study: Why cold is such a pain

Jun 14, 2007

German scientists have identified a key molecule that helps animals feel pain associated with low temperatures.

Recommended for you

Protein glue shows potential for use with biomaterials

Aug 28, 2014

Researchers at the University of Milan in Italy have shown that a synthetic protein called AGMA1 has the potential to promote the adhesion of brain cells in a laboratory setting. This could prove helpful ...

User comments : 0