A peptide toxin in ant venom mimics vertebrate EGF-like hormones to cause long-lasting hypersensitivity in mammals
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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.
- PNAS 119, e2112630119 (2022). doi: 10.1073/pnas.2112630119
|The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia||0.79|
|Monash University, Australia||0.14|
|Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway||0.04|
|University of Oslo (UiO), Norway||0.04|