Scorpion venom is a complex mixture of salts, small molecules, peptides, and proteins. Scorpions employ this valuable tool in several sophisticated ways for subduing prey, deterring predators, and possibly during mating. Here, a subtle but clever strategy of venom utilization by scorpions is reported. Scorpions secrete a small quantity of transparent venom when initially stimulated that we propose to name prevenom. If secretion continues, a cloudy and dense venom that is white in color is subsequently released. The prevenom contains a combination of high K+ salt and several peptides including some that block rectifying K+ channels and elicit significant pain and toxicity because of a massive local depolarization. The presence of high extracellular K+ in the prevenom can depolarize cells and also decrease the local electrochemical gradient making it more difficult to reestablish the resting potential. When this positive change to the K+ equilibrium potential is combined with the blockage of rectifying K+ channels, this further delays the recovery of the resting potential, causing a prolonged effect. We propose that the prevenom of scorpions is used as a highly efficacious predator deterrent and for immobilizing small prey while conserving metabolically expensive venom until a certain level of stimuli is reached, after which the venom is secreted.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Feb 4 2003|
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