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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A transcriptomic analysis of gene expression in the venom gland of the snake Bothrops alternatus (urutu)

Kiara C Cardoso1, Márcio J Da Silva2, Gustavo GL Costa2, Tatiana T Torres2, Luiz Eduardo V Del Bem2, Ramon O Vidal3, Marcelo Menossi3 and Stephen Hyslop1*

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Farmacologia, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), CP 6111, 13083-970, Campinas, SP, Brazil

2 Centro de Biologia Molecular e Genética (CBMEG), Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), 13083-970, Campinas, SP, Brazil

3 Departamento de Genética, Evolução e Bioagentes, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), CP 6109, 13083-970, Campinas, SP, Brazil

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:605  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-605

Published: 26 October 2010

Abstract

Background

The genus Bothrops is widespread throughout Central and South America and is the principal cause of snakebite in these regions. Transcriptomic and proteomic studies have examined the venom composition of several species in this genus, but many others remain to be studied. In this work, we used a transcriptomic approach to examine the venom gland genes of Bothrops alternatus, a clinically important species found in southeastern and southern Brazil, Uruguay, northern Argentina and eastern Paraguay.

Results

A cDNA library of 5,350 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) was produced and assembled into 838 contigs and 4512 singletons. BLAST searches of relevant databases showed 30% hits and 70% no-hits, with toxin-related transcripts accounting for 23% and 78% of the total transcripts and hits, respectively. Gene ontology analysis identified non-toxin genes related to general metabolism, transcription and translation, processing and sorting, (polypeptide) degradation, structural functions and cell regulation. The major groups of toxin transcripts identified were metalloproteinases (81%), bradykinin-potentiating peptides/C-type natriuretic peptides (8.8%), phospholipases A2 (5.6%), serine proteinases (1.9%) and C-type lectins (1.5%). Metalloproteinases were almost exclusively type PIII proteins, with few type PII and no type PI proteins. Phospholipases A2 were essentially acidic; no basic PLA2 were detected. Minor toxin transcripts were related to L-amino acid oxidase, cysteine-rich secretory proteins, dipeptidylpeptidase IV, hyaluronidase, three-finger toxins and ohanin. Two non-toxic proteins, thioredoxin and double-specificity phosphatase Dusp6, showed high sequence identity to similar proteins from other snakes. In addition to the above features, single-nucleotide polymorphisms, microsatellites, transposable elements and inverted repeats that could contribute to toxin diversity were observed.

Conclusions

Bothrops alternatus venom gland contains the major toxin classes described for other Bothrops venoms based on trancriptomic and proteomic studies. The predominance of type PIII metalloproteinases agrees with the well-known hemorrhagic activity of this venom, whereas the lower content of serine proteases and C-type lectins could contribute to less marked coagulopathy following envenoming by this species. The lack of basic PLA2 agrees with the lower myotoxicity of this venom compared to other Bothrops species with these toxins. Together, these results contribute to our understanding of the physiopathology of envenoming by this species.