Electric Blue: Molecular Evolution of Three-Finger Toxins in the Long-Glanded Coral Snake Species Calliophis bivirgatus.Toxins (Basel). 2021 02 08; 13(2)T
The genus Calliophis is the most basal branch of the family Elapidae and several species in it have developed highly elongated venom glands. Recent research has shown that C. bivirgatus has evolved a seemingly unique toxin (calliotoxin) that produces spastic paralysis in their prey by acting on the voltage-gated sodium (NaV) channels. We assembled a transcriptome from C. bivirgatus to investigate the molecular characteristics of these toxins and the venom as a whole. We find strong confirmation that this genus produces the classic elapid eight-cysteine three-finger toxins, that δδ-elapitoxins (toxins that resemble calliotoxin) are responsible for a substantial portion of the venom composition, and that these toxins form a distinct clade within a larger, more diverse clade of C. bivirgatus three-finger toxins. This broader clade of C. bivirgatus toxins also contains the previously named maticotoxins and is somewhat closely related to cytotoxins from other elapids. However, the toxins from this clade that have been characterized are not themselves cytotoxic. No other toxins show clear relationships to toxins of known function from other species.