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Cent Nerv Syst Agents Med Chem. 2012 Dec;12(4):315-28.

Effects of snake venom polypeptides on central nervous system.

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Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Russian Academy of Sciences, ul. Miklukho-Maklaya 16/10, Moscow V-437, 117997 Russia.


The nervous system is a primary target for animal venoms as the impairment of its function results in the fast and efficient immobilization or death of a prey. There are numerous evidences about effects of crude snake venoms or isolated toxins on peripheral nervous system. However, the data on their interactions with the central nervous system (CNS) are not abundant, as the blood-brain barrier (BBB) impedes penetration of these compounds into brain. This updated review presents the data about interaction of snake venom polypeptides with CNS. Such data will be described according to three main modes of interactions: - Direct in vivo interaction of CNS with venom polypeptides either capable to penetrate BBB or injected into the brain. - In vitro interactions of cell or sub-cellular fractions of CNS with crude venoms or purified toxins. - Indirect effects of snake venoms or their components on functioning of CNS under different conditions. Although the venom components penetrating BBB are not numerous, they seem to be the most suitable candidates for the leads in drug design. The compounds with other modes of action are more abundant and better studied, but the lack of the data about their ability to penetrate BBB may substantially aggravate the potentials for their medical perspectives. Nevertheless, many such compounds are used for research of CNS in vitro. These investigations may give invaluable information for understanding the molecular basis of CNS diseases and thus lay the basis for targeted drug design. This aspect also will be outlined in the review.

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