Autonomic effects of some scorpion venoms and toxins.

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Gwee, MC
Nirthanan, S
Khoo, HE
Gopalakrishnakone, P
Kini, RM
Cheah, LS
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  1. The autonomic effects of venoms and toxins from several species of scorpions, including the Indian red scorpion Mesobuthus tamulus, the Chinese scorpion Buthus martensi Karsch and the Israeli scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus quinquestriatus, all belonging to Buthidae, and the Asian black scorpions Heterometrus longimanus and Heterometrus spinifer, belonging to Scorpionidae, are reviewed. 2. The effects of the venoms of M. tamulus and L. q. quinquestriatus on noradrenergic and nitrergic transmission in the rat isolated anococcygeus muscle revealed that both venoms mediated their pharmacological effects via a prejunctional mechanism involving the activation of voltage-sensitive sodium channels with consequent release of neurotransmitters that mediate target organ responses, similar to the effects mediated by other alpha-scorpion toxins. 3. Two new toxins, Makatoxin I and Bukatoxin, were purified to homogeneity from the venom of B. martensi Karsch. Determination of their complete amino acid sequences confirmed that both toxins belonged to the class of alpha-scorpion toxins. The effects of both toxins on noradrenergic and nitrergic transmission in the rat anococcygeus muscle provided firm evidence that their pharmacological actions also closely resembled those mediated by other alpha-scorpion toxins on neuronal voltage-sensitive sodium channels. 4. The venoms of H. longimanus and H. spinifer were found to have high concentrations of noradrenaline (1.8 +/- 0.3 mmol/L) and relatively high concentrations of acetylcholine (79.8 +/- 1.7 micromol/L) together with noradrenaline (146.7 +/- 19.8 micromol/L), respectively, which can account for their potent direct cholinergic and noradrenergic agonist actions in the rat anococcygeus muscle. 5. Our studies confirmed that the rat anococcygeus muscle is an excellent nerve-smooth muscle preparation for investigating the effects of bioactive agents on noradrenergic and nitrergic transmission, as well as the direct agonist actions of these agents on post-synaptic alpha-adrenoceptors and M3 muscarinic cholinoceptors. Although many studies, including our own, have documented that scorpion venoms and toxins mediate their primary effects via a prejunctional mechanism that leads to the marked release of various autonomic neurotransmitters, our studies have shown that there are exceptions to this generally accepted phenomenon. In particular, we have provided firm evidence to show that the venoms from H. longimanus and H. spinifer do not have such a prejunctional site of action but, instead, the venoms mediate their autonomic effects through direct agonist actions on post-junctional muscarinic M3 cholinoceptors and alpha-adrenoceptors.
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Clinical & Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology

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Emergency medicine

Autonomic nervous system

Pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences

Basic pharmacology

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