Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Reblog] Weaponized insulin? These snails have it.

These killer snails use weaponized insulin to stun fish. Video courtesy of  Jason Biggs and Baldomero Olivera at the University of Utah.

That’s a new finding by biologists at the University of Utah, where I work.

Cone snails are abundant in most tropical marine waters, especially around coral reefs. Each species makes a distinct repertoire of venom compounds, mixtures that have evolved to target particular prey.Conus geographus, a cone snail that has killed dozens of people in accidental encounters, traps fish by releasing a blend of immobilizing venoms into the water, according to the prevailing hypothesis. The snail protrudes a stretchy mouth-like part and aims it like a gun barrel at fish, which become disoriented and stop moving even as the snail’s mouth part slowly advances and engulfs the fish.

Seeking to understand how the cone snail springs its slow-motion trap, the Utah researchers searched the gene sequences of all of the proteins expressed in the venom gland of Conus geographus. They found two sequences that looked surprisingly similar to that of the hormone insulin, used by humans and other vertebrate animals to regulate energy metabolism. The insulin genes were more highly expressed in the venom gland than genes for some of the established venom toxins. One sequence proved very similar to that of fish insulin. Chemical analysis of venom confirmed that it contained abundant amounts of this insulin.

….

Advertisements

January 29, 2015 - Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: