Phylogenetic analyses suggest centipede venom arsenals were repeatedly stocked by horizontal gene transfer

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2021-02-05

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21093-8

Affiliations: 4

Authors: 2

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Research Highlight

Centipedes borrow venom genes from bacteria

© Ali Majdfar/Moment/Getty Images

© Ali Majdfar/Moment/Getty Images

Centipede venom contains an unusually high number of proteins normally found in bacteria and fungi, suggesting that the genes for these molecules have been acquired through horizontal transfer.

Animal venoms have evolved independently at least 100 times across different species, but the acquisition of venom proteins from other species — called horizontal gene transfer — is thought to be relatively uncommon.

A study of the evolutionary history of centipede venom, a researcher from the University of Queensland and a collaborator, has revealed that at least eight horizontal gene-transfer events have occurred throughout the centipede’s history.

The two researchers identified five gene families in the genome of centipede venom that originated from bacteria and fungi. Three of these genes are known to play a role in bacterial virulence, include genes for toxins that disrupt the structure of cell membranes and that could help immobilize prey.

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  1. Nature Communications 12, 818 (2021). doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-21093-8
Institutions Share
Natural History Museum, United Kingdom (UK) 0.50
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway 0.17
University of Oslo (UiO), Norway 0.17
The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia 0.17