Peptide Toxins That Target Vertebrate Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels Underly the Painful Stings of Harvester Ants


Journal of Biological Chemistry 300, no. 1 (2023): 105577


Samuel D. Robinson, Jennifer R. Deuis, Pancong Niu, Axel Touchard, Alexander Mueller, Vanessa Schendel, Nina Brinkwirth, Glenn F. King, Irina Vetter, and Justin O. Schmidt



Harvester ants (genus Pogonomyrmex) are renowned for their stings which cause intense, long-lasting pain, and other neurotoxic symptoms in vertebrates. Here, we show that harvester ant venoms are relatively simple and composed largely of peptide toxins. One class of peptides is primarily responsible for the long-lasting local pain of envenomation via activation of peripheral sensory neurons. These hydrophobic, cysteine-free peptides potently modulate mammalian voltage- gated sodium (NaV) channels, reducing the voltage threshold for activation and inhibiting channel inactivation. These toxins appear to have evolved specifically to deter vertebrates.


Keywords: Q4 2023

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