Ant venoms contain vertebrate-selective pain-causing sodium channel toxins


Nature communications


Robinson, S. D., Deuis, J. R., Touchard, A., Keramidas, A., Mueller, A., Schroeder, C. I., Barassé, V., Walker, A. A., Brinkwirth, N., Jami, S., Bonnafé, E., Treilhou, M., Undheim, E. A. B., Schmidt, J. O., King, G. F., & Vetter, I. (2023). Ant venoms contain vertebrate-selective pain-causing sodium channel toxins. Nature Communications, 14(1).



Stings of certain ant species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) can cause intense, long-lasting nociception. Here we show that the major contributors to these symptoms are venom peptides that modulate the activity of voltage-gated sodium (NaV) channels, reducing their voltage threshold for activation and inhibiting channel inactivation. These peptide toxins are likely vertebrate-selective, consistent with a primarily defensive function. They emerged early in the Formicidae lineage and may have been a pivotal factor in the expansion of ants.

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