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Neurotoxic and neuroactive compounds from Cnidaria: five decades of research….and more.

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Department of Earth, Environment and Life Sciences, University of Genova, Italy.


Cnidarians are numbered among the most venomous organisms. Their venoms are contained in intracellular capsules, nematocysts, which inject the content into preys/attackers through an eversion system resembling a syringe needle. Several cnidarian venoms have activity against the nervous system, being neurotoxic, or affect other systems whose functioning is under nerve control. Besides direct damage to nerve cells, the activity on ionic conductance, blockade of neuromuscular junctions, and influence on action potentials and on voltage-gated channels have been described. Therefore, cnidarians can be a useful source of nervous system-targeted compounds which could have, in perspective, a role in the therapy of some nervous system diseases. Following this idea, this article aims to review the existing data about the neuroactive properties of cnidarian venoms and their possible usefulness in tackling some neurological diseases as well as neurodegenerative age-related diseases whose incidence is expected to raise in the next decades owing to the increase of life expectancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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