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Toxicon. 2001 Jan;39(1):87-96.

Toxicity in animals. Trends in evolution?

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  • 1Zentrum der Rechtsmedizin, University of Frankfurt, Kennedyallee 104, D-60596 Frankfurt, Germany. mebs@em.frankfurt.de

Abstract

Animals acquire toxicity either by metabolic synthesis of toxins (secondary metabolites), by expression of toxin genes or by the uptake, storage and sequestration of toxins produced by other organisms, i.e., microbes, plants or other animals. Variability of toxin structure and function is high. Peptide toxins in particular, although relying on a limited number of structural frameworks, often exhibit considerable structural hypervariability. An accelerated rate of evolution in the toxin gene structure (conserved introns, but high substitution rates in the exons) leads to the functional diversity of these peptides or proteins. The selective forces which may drive toxin evolution are unknown. Venomousness or the possession of toxins can be essential for survival, but the advantage of toxin biosynthesis may also be of minor importance or has been lost during evolution.

PMID:
10936625
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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