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Gene. 2002 Oct 16;299(1-2):279-91.

A survey of gene expression and diversity in the venom glands of the pitviper snake Bothrops insularis through the generation of expressed sequence tags (ESTs).

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Centro de Biotecnologia, Instituto Butantan, Av. Vital Brazil, 1500, São Paulo, SP 05503-900, Brazil.


In order to produce a global panorama of the transcriptional activity of snake venom glands and to correlate with its venom composition, we constructed a DNA complementary to RNA library from the venom glands of the Viperidae snake Bothrops insularis for the generation of expressed sequence tags (ESTs). Sequences from 610 independent clones were grouped in 297 clusters, revealing the putative identification of 210 distinct gene products. Toxin sequences correspond to 56% of all transcripts (85 clusters), being the metalloproteinases (23%) and the bradykinin-potentiating peptides (11%) the major components. This approach revealed a new highly expressed toxin similar to vascular endothelial growth factor, which was recently reported (J. Biol. Chem. 276 (2001) 39836). Among the 125 clusters matching cellular proteins, the major part represents molecules involved in gene and protein expression, notably in disulfide bond assembly, reflecting a high specialization of this tissue for toxin synthesis. An unusual representation of retrotransposon-like sequences was also found and could be related to the occurrence and diversity of many paralogous forms of toxins in the venom gland. Our B. insularis dbEST allowed the identification of the most common classes of toxins present in Viperidae venoms, which parallels the complex hemorrhagic effects evoked by the venom on the prey. In addition, it provides the first comprehensive set of reptilian gene sequences described so far.

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