A depressant insect-selective toxin analog from the venom of the scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus purification and structure/function characterization

Haim Moskowitz, Rafael Herrmann, A. Daniel Jones, Bruce D. Hammock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Scopus citations


The scorpion venom-derived excitatory and depressant insect-selective polypeptide neurotoxins modify sodium conductance in insect neuronal membranes and differ greatly in their primary structures and symptoms induced in blow fly larvae. We report here the purification and characterization of a new insect selective toxin, LqhIT5. LqhIT5 is more similar to the excitatory toxins in its mode of action and the depressant toxins in its primary structure. This toxin is a single polypeptide composed of 61 amino acids that are cross linked by four disulfide bonds. When LqhIT5 is injected into blow fly larvae, a fast contraction paralysis occurs without depressant activity. No mammalian toxicity was detected by subcutaneous or intracranial injections of this toxin into mice. Sequence comparison of LqhIT5 and known depressant toxins shows a high degree of similarity among the amino acids located on the C-terminus of the toxins. However, there are some clear differences in the amino acids located close to the N-terminus of the toxins. By the aid of homology modeling, we demonstrated that these amino acids have the same orientation in the tertiary structure of the molecule and are exposed to the environment. The change in the mode of action of LqhIT5 (no depressant activity) by substitutions of a few amino acids located on a specific exposed area of the toxin shed a new light on the structure/function relationship of scorpion toxins. These results caution that similarity in the mechanism of action of scorpion toxins does not always follow from an overall similarity in sequence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-49
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 15 1998



  • Depressant insect toxin
  • Mode of action
  • Scorpion toxins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry

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