A peptide toxin in ant venom mimics vertebrate EGF-like hormones to cause long-lasting hypersensitivity in mammals

Journal:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Published:
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.2112630119
Affiliations:
8
Authors:
14

Research Highlight

Ant venom finding could lead to long-term-pain treatments

© kaarel olesk/500px Prime/Getty Images

A component in the venom of the Australian giant red bull ant mimics a hormone found in mammals and makes them more sensitive to pain, a finding which could be useful for developing new ways to treat long-term pain in people

Most animal venoms are made up of a cocktail of toxins that induce a variety of reactions in their victims.

Now, a team led by researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia has found that a peptide toxin in the bull ant’s venom closely resembles an epidermal growth factor hormone found in mammals.

Unlike other toxins in the ant’s venom that impart a stinging sensation, the hormone-mimicking toxin does not directly cause pain in mammals. Rather, it enhances their long-term sensitivity to pain.

The researchers speculate the ant evolved the venom to defend against echidnas — the only mammal known to attack nests of bull ants.

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References

  1. PNAS 119, e2112630119 (2022). doi: 10.1073/pnas.2112630119
Institutions Authors Share
The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia
11.000000
11.000000
0.79
Monash University, Australia
2.000000
0.14
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway
0.500000
0.04
University of Oslo (UiO), Norway
0.500000
0.04