Open Access Research article

Transcriptome analysis of Deinagkistrodon acutus venomous gland focusing on cellular structure and functional aspects using expressed sequence tags

Bing Zhang12, Qinghua Liu3, Wei Yin4, Xiaowei Zhang2, Yijun Huang3, Yingfeng Luo12, Pengxin Qiu3, Xingwen Su3, Jun Yu12, Songnian Hu12 and Guangmei Yan3*

Author Affiliations

1 James D. Watson Institute of Genome Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

2 Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

3 Department of Pharmacology, Zhongshan Medical School of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

4 Department of Biochemistry, Zhongshan Medical School of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

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BMC Genomics 2006, 7:152  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-7-152

Published: 15 June 2006



The snake venom gland is a specialized organ, which synthesizes and secretes the complex and abundant toxin proteins. Though gene expression in the snake venom gland has been extensively studied, the focus has been on the components of the venom. As far as the molecular mechanism of toxin secretion and metabolism is concerned, we still knew a little. Therefore, a fundamental question being arisen is what genes are expressed in the snake venom glands besides many toxin components?


To examine extensively the transcripts expressed in the venom gland of Deinagkistrodon acutus and unveil the potential of its products on cellular structure and functional aspects, we generated 8696 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from a non-normalized cDNA library. All ESTs were clustered into 3416 clusters, of which 40.16% of total ESTs belong to recognized toxin-coding sequences; 39.85% are similar to cellular transcripts; and 20.00% have no significant similarity to any known sequences. By analyzing cellular functional transcripts, we found high expression of some venom related genes and gland-specific genes, such as calglandulin EF-hand protein gene and protein disulfide isomerase gene. The transcripts of creatine kinase and NADH dehydrogenase were also identified at high level. Moreover, abundant cellular structural proteins similar to mammalian muscle tissues were also identified. The phylogenetic analysis of two snake venom toxin families of group III metalloproteinase and serine protease in suborder Colubroidea showed an early single recruitment event in the viperids evolutionary process.


Gene cataloguing and profiling of the venom gland of Deinagkistrodon acutus is an essential requisite to provide molecular reagents for functional genomic studies needed for elucidating mechanisms of action of toxins and surveying physiological events taking place in the very specialized secretory tissue. So this study provides a first global view of the genetic programs for the venom gland of Deinagkistrodon acutus described so far and an insight into molecular mechanism of toxin secreting.

All sequences data reported in this paper have been submitted into the public database [GenBank: DV556511-DV565206].