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Action of Black Widow Spider Venom on an Aminergic Synapse


AT the frog neuromuscular synapse Black Widow Spider venom (BWSV) transiently increases the frequency of the spontaneous miniature end-plate potentials before abolishing the miniature discharge1, these changes being accompanied by depletion of the synaptic vesicles in the terminals of the motoneurones2. It has been suggested that the action of this venom is restricted to cholinergic systems3, a suggestion possibly supported by its inactivity at the squid giant synapse (R. Miledi, personal communication). The fact that studies using fluorescence histochemical techniques indicate that BWSV also depletes transmitter at catecholamine synapses4 seems, however, to refute this. In view of this it seemed worth while to examine the effect of BWSV on a non-cholinergic synapse, the insect nerve-muscle synapse where transmission is glutamatergic5. The results of these studies were quite unequivocal; BWSV has qualitatively similar effects on glutamate and acetylcholine synapses.

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