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Br J Pharmacol. 1972 Apr;44(4):752-64.

Role of cardiotoxin and phospholipase A in the blockade of nerve conduction and depolarization of skeletal muscle induced by cobra venom.


1. The effects of phospholipase A (PhA), cardiotoxin (CTX) and neurotoxin (cobrotoxin) isolated from Formosan cobra (Naja naja atra) venom on conduction of the rat phrenic nerve and membrane potential of the rat diaphragm were studied.2. Phospholipase A, lysolecithin and cobrotoxin were without effect on the axonal conduction. Cardiotoxin was the only active agent in cobra venom, but it was less potent than the crude venom.3. The blocking action of cardiotoxin was markedly accelerated by the simultaneous administration of phospholipase A. However, the minimum effective concentration of cardiotoxin (100 mug/ml), was not decreased by phospholipase A. Pretreatment of the nerve with phospholipase A, followed by washout, did not alter the activity of cardiotoxin.4. Cardiotoxin (3 mug/ml) completely depolarized the membrane of superficial muscle fibres within 60 min, being 3 times more potent than the crude venom. Phospholipase A, on the other hand, needed a dose 30 times higher and a prolonged period of incubation to induce depolarization of similar extent. Cobrotoxin was without effect on membrane potentials.5. CaCl(2) (10 mM) effectively antagonized the nerve blocking as well as the depolarizing effect of the crude venom, cardiotoxin or cardiotoxin plus phospholipase A. By contrast, the slow depolarizing effect of phospholipase A was enhanced by high concentrations of calcium.6. Cardiotoxic fractions of Indian cobra venom affected both nerve conduction and diaphragm membrane potential in exactly the same way as cardiotoxin. Toxin A of the same venom was without effect.7. It is concluded that the active agent in cobra venoms either on axonal conduction or on muscle membrane is cardiotoxin. The synergistic effect of phospholipase A on cardiotoxin appears to be due to acceleration rather than potentiation of its action. The mechanism of action of cardiotoxin and its synergism by phospholipase A are discussed.

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