Selective spider toxins reveal a role for the Nav1.1 channel in mechanical pain

Journal: Nature

Published: 2016-06-06

DOI: 10.1038/nature17976

Affiliations: 8

Authors: 20

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Research Highlight

Using tarantulas to settle nerves

© Frank Krahmer/Corbis/Getty

© Frank Krahmer/Corbis/Getty

The terrible pain felt by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers could be alleviated thanks to spider venom, of all things.

A US-Australia team, including researchers from the University of Queensland, investigated the transmission of mechanical pain by Nav1.1, an ion channel that initiates a nerve impulse in certain neurons or nerve cells. They were able to trigger Nav1.1 by injecting mice with two tarantula toxins that specifically targeted the channel.

After injection, the mice were more sensitive to mechanical pain, but did not experience elevated reactions to thermal pain. The team also found that Nav1.1 was expressed in high levels by nerve fibres in the gut.

Identifying the role Nav1.1 plays in the transmission of mechanical pain could help researchers develop treatments for IBS and other conditions. The team is now working on developing molecules that block the channel.

Supported content

  1. Nature 534, 494–499 (2016) doi: 10.1038/nature17976
Institutions FC WFC
Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), UQ, Australia 0.25 0.25
UCSF Department of Physiology, United States of America (USA) 0.20 0.20
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHUSOM), JHU, United States of America (USA) 0.10 0.10
UCSF Department of Anatomy, United States of America (USA) 0.10 0.10
Flinders University, Australia 0.10 0.10
Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, MCW, United States of America (USA) 0.10 0.10
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Adelaide Uni, Australia 0.08 0.08
South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), Australia 0.08 0.08

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