Scorpion toxin targets ‘wasabi receptor’
The discovery of a scorpion toxin that elicits pain in a similar — but distinct — fashion to wasabi and other pungent foods could help scientists discover novel pain-relieving medicines.
A team that included researchers from the University of Queensland isolated a small peptide from the venom of the Australian black rock scorpion. They named the molecule wasabi receptor toxin, or WaTx, since it triggers the same chemical-sensing protein as the horseradish plant. However, unlike other activators of this receptor, WaTx binds to its target in a way that does not produce inflammatory signals.
WaTx now offers an experimental tool for studying acute-pain responses without the confounding effects of inflammation.
The findings also highlight how distantly related life forms — in this case, plants and animals — can evolve defensive strategies that target the same receptor, albeit through different mechanisms.
- Cell 178, 1362–1374 (2019). doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.07.014