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Nat Commun. 2014 Mar 24;5:3521. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4521.

Evolution of separate predation- and defence-evoked venoms in carnivorous cone snails.

Author information

1
1] Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, 4072 Queensland, Australia [2] Institut des Biomolécules Max Mousseron, UMR 5247, Université Montpellier 2-CNRS, Place Eugène Bataillon, Montpellier Cedex 5 34095, France.
2
Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, 4072 Queensland, Australia.
3
1] Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, 4072 Queensland, Australia [2] School of Pharmacy, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, 4102 Queensland, Australia.
4
Pathology Department, and Mater Research Institute, Mater Health Services, South Brisbane, 4101 Queensland, Australia.
5
1] CIMAR/CIIMAR, Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental, Universidade do Porto, Rua dos Bragas, 177, Porto 4050-123, Portugal [2] Departamento de Biologia, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade do Porto, Rua do Campo Alegre, Porto 4169-007, Portugal.
6
1] Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, 4072 Queensland, Australia [2] Venom Evolution Lab, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, 4072 Queensland, Australia.
7
1] Pathology Department, and Mater Research Institute, Mater Health Services, South Brisbane, 4101 Queensland, Australia [2] Department of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, 4072 Queensland, Australia.

Abstract

Venomous animals are thought to inject the same combination of toxins for both predation and defence, presumably exploiting conserved target pharmacology across prey and predators. Remarkably, cone snails can rapidly switch between distinct venoms in response to predatory or defensive stimuli. Here, we show that the defence-evoked venom of Conus geographus contains high levels of paralytic toxins that potently block neuromuscular receptors, consistent with its lethal effects on humans. In contrast, C. geographus predation-evoked venom contains prey-specific toxins mostly inactive at human targets. Predation- and defence-evoked venoms originate from the distal and proximal regions of the venom duct, respectively, explaining how different stimuli can generate two distinct venoms. A specialized defensive envenomation strategy is widely evolved across worm, mollusk and fish-hunting cone snails. We propose that defensive toxins, originally evolved in ancestral worm-hunting cone snails to protect against cephalopod and fish predation, have been repurposed in predatory venoms to facilitate diversification to fish and mollusk diets.

PMID:
24662800
PMCID:
PMC3973120
DOI:
10.1038/ncomms4521
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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