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Cytotechnology. 2014 Jan;66(1):63-74. doi: 10.1007/s10616-013-9537-7. Epub 2013 Jan 22.

Effects of Lonomia obliqua caterpillar venom upon the proliferation and viability of cell lines.

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Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciências da Saúde, Universidade Federal de Ciências da Saúde de Porto Alegre (UFCSPA), Rua Sarmento Leite 245, Porto Alegre, RS, 90050-170, Brazil.


Many active principles produced by animals, plants and microorganisms have been employed in the development of new drugs for the treatment of human diseases. Among animals known to produce pharmacologically active molecules that interfere in human cell physiology, the caterpillar Lonomia obliqua has become the focus of toxicological studies due to recent findings about its venom constituents. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of L. obliqua venom upon the viability and the proliferation of different cell lineages and to propose mechanisms for the herein observed induction of cell proliferation in glioma cell lines. MTT analyses indicate that L. obliqua venom increases the viability of tumor cell lines U138-MG and HT-29; on the other hand, it inhibits the viability of V-79 nontumor cells. Cell count based on the trypan blue exclusion method suggests a proliferating activity of the venom upon U138-MG cells. Exposure of U138-MG to crude venom extract led to a decrease in the production of nitric oxide, and activation of the cAMP signaling pathway inhibited the effects of the venom, indicating that these mechanisms may influence cell proliferation triggered by the venom. Despite the proliferative effects of crude venom on U138-MG and HT-29 cell cultures, a protein purified from L. obliqua hemolymph previously shown to have cytoprotective activity had no effect on U138-MG and HT-29; however, this same protein increased the viability of V-79 cells that had previously been exposed to the cytotoxic activity of the crude venom extract. This study indicates that the venom and the antiapoptotic protein act differently and have different effects on cell cultures, depending on the cell line analyzed. Biomolecules displaying either mitogenic or cytotoxic activities are of great biotechnological interest. Further studies encompassing the purification of active principles from L. obliqua venom are necessary to further elucidate its effects on different cell types.

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