The venom of the South African scorpion Parabuthus transvaalicus was characterized using a combination of mass spectrometry and RP-HPLC separation and bioassays. The crude venom was initially separated into 10 fractions. A novel, moderately toxic but very high abundance peptide (birtoxin) of 58 amino-acid residues was isolated, identified and characterized. Each purification step was followed by bioassays and mass spectroscopy. First a C4 RP-HPLC column was used, then a C18 RP Microbore column purification resulted in >95% purity in the case of birtoxin from a starting material of 230 μg of crude venom. About 12-14% of the D214 absorbance of the total venom as observed after the first chromatography step was composed of birtoxin. This peptide was lethal to mice at low microgram quantities and it induced serious symptoms including tremors, which lasted up to 24 h post injection, at submicrogram amounts. At least seven other fractions that showed different activities including one fraction with specificity against blowfly larvae were identified. Identification of potent components is an important step in designing and obtaining effective anti-venom. Antibodies raised against the critical toxic components have the potential to block the toxic effects and reduce the pain associated with the scorpion envenomation. The discovery of birtoxin, a bioactive long chain neurotoxin peptide with only three disulfide bridges, offers new insight into understanding the role of conserved disulfide bridges with respect to scorpion toxin structure and function.
- Parabuthus transvaalicus
ASJC Scopus subject areas