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Pure Appl. Chem., 2012, Vol. 84, No. 6, pp. 1317-1328

Published online 2012-04-01

Bioorganic studies on the venom from duckbill platypus

Masaki Kita

Graduate School of Pure and Applied Sciences, University of Tsukuba, 1-1-1 Tennodai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8571, Japan

Abstract: Venomous mammals are rare, and only a few species in the orders Insectivora and Monotremata produce toxic venom. Among them, the duckbill platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is one of the two venomous Australian mammals. The adult male platypus carries a spur on each hind leg, which it uses to inject competitors with poison. However, the structure and function of the poison’s active compounds are still imcompletely characterized. We found that crude platypus venom produced potent Ca2+ influx in human neuroblastoma IMR‑32 cells. Guided by this assay, we identified 11 unique peptides, including peptide H–His–Asp–His–Pro–Asn–Pro–Arg–OH, which coincided with the N-terminal domain residues of Ornithorhynchus venom C-type natriuretic peptide (OvCNP). This heptapeptide induced a significant increase in [Ca2+]i in IMR-32 cells at 75 μM; had relatively specific affinities for glutamate, histamine, and GABAA receptors; and facilitated neurogenic twitching in guinea pig ileum specimens at 30 μM. We also established that its proteinous venom fraction strongly hydrolyzed Pro–Phe–Arg–MCA and cleaved a human low-molecular-weight kininogen (LK), similar to porcine pancreas kallikrein. These results strongly indicated that platypus venom contains tissue kallikrein-like protease(s), and its proteolytic activity might synergistically contribute to toxicity through the specific cleavage of other venom constituents.