Voltage-gated sodium channel in grasshopper mice defends against bark scorpion toxin

Ashlee H. Rowe, Yucheng Xiao, Matthew P. Rowe, Theodore R. Cummins, Harold H. Zakon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

74 Scopus citations

Abstract

Painful venoms are used to deter predators. Pain itself, however, can signal damage and thus serves an important adaptive function. Evolution to reduce general pain responses, although valuable for preying on venomous species, is rare, likely because it comes with the risk of reduced response to tissue damage. Bark scorpions capitalize on the protective pain pathway of predators by inflicting intensely painful stings. However, grasshopper mice regularly attack and consume bark scorpions, grooming only briefly when stung. Bark scorpion venom induces pain in many mammals (house mice, rats, humans) by activating the voltage-gated Na+ channel Nav1.7, but has no effect on Nav1.8. Grasshopper mice Nav1.8 has amino acid variants that bind bark scorpion toxins and inhibit Na+ currents, blocking action potential propagation and inducing analgesia. Thus, grasshopper mice have solved the predator-pain problem by using a toxin bound to a nontarget channel to block transmission of the pain signals the venom itself is initiating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-446
Number of pages6
JournalScience
Volume342
Issue number6157
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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