Australian bull ants have developed a venom molecule completely tuned to focus on one among their predators – the echidna – that additionally might have implications for folks with long-term ache, College of Queensland researchers say.
Dr Sam Robinson and David Eagles from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience discovered a bull ant venom element that exploits a ache pathway in mammals, which they imagine developed to cease echidnas attacking the ant’s nests.
Venoms are complicated cocktails and whereas bull ant venom incorporates molecules much like these present in honey bee stings which trigger instant ache, we additionally discovered an intriguing new molecule that was completely different.”
Dr Sam Robinson, UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience
While looking out databases for comparable amino-acid sequences, Dr Robinson discovered that the molecule matched the sequence of mammalian hormones associated to Epidermal Progress Issue (EGF), and of those, was most intently associated to that of the echidna.
“We examined the venom molecule on mammalian EGF receptors and it was very potent – this satisfied us that the venom molecule was there to defend towards mammals,” he mentioned.
“We went on to point out that whereas it did not trigger direct ache, the molecule did trigger long-lasting hypersensitivity.
“Many small carnivorous marsupials, like bandicoots, eat particular person ants, however solely the echidna is thought to assault bull ant nests and goal their younger – we expect that making the echidna delicate to ache, in tandem with the instant ‘bee-sting’ ache, could dissuade it from returning to the nests.
“You possibly can see clearly within the ant’s DNA that it’s producing a molecule that mimics a hormone of its pure enemy and is utilizing it as a weapon towards it – it brings to thoughts the traditional proverb ‘to know your enemy, you will need to grow to be your enemy.'”
The crew believes the hyperlinks between EGF signaling and persistent ache are constructing momentum and is assured this examine might encourage new methods to deal with long-term ache.
EGF-inhibitor medicine are available in the marketplace and utilized in anti-cancer remedy to sluggish tumor development, with proof suggesting sufferers that take them expertise much less long-term ache.
“We hope that by highlighting the position of this signaling pathway in ache, we will encourage completely different methods for ache therapy, particularly long-term ache for which therapy is presently restricted,” Dr Robinson mentioned.