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Russian biochemists create database of scorpion venom

June 20, 2016, 13:54 UTC+3

This database is supposed to enable scientists to systematize information on the molecules that block potassium channels

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MOSCOW, June 20. /TASS/ Researchers from the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IBCh RAS) have created a database designated Kalium which collects peptide toxins from scorpion venom. The news was reported on the popular-science web portal Cherdak at TASS, with reference to the press service of IBCh RAS.

This database is supposed to enable scientists to systematize information on the molecules that block potassium channels. In addition, such a database should be a useful tool to conduct further studies on the channels themselves, which are considered as pharmacological targets for certain autoimmune, oncologic, and neurodegenerative diseases. The results of the study have been published in journal– Database: The Journal of Biological Databases and Curation.

“Imagine that you are studying any particular scorpion, and you need to find out what is known about the molecular diversity of the potassium channel blockers entering the composition of its venom. You could directly visit the Kalium database and find all known peptide molecules for this particular animal species that are acting on potassium channels.” – explains Alexey Kuzmenkov, the first author of the recent publication.

The potassium channels are the most abundant type of ion channels, i.e. proteins gating the ions through the cell membrane. Potassium channels gate exclusively potassium ions and play a leading role in transmission signals in the nervous system. The disruption of the function of these proteins leads to various diseases, and therefore, they are considered to be important pharmacological targets. Protein toxins as scorpion venom selectively block potassium channels, which leads to the paralysis of a victim.

The researchers have collected information on molecules from scientific publications and other databases; they have included molecular weight of toxins and pointed out potassium channels potentially exposed to every toxin. The scientists suppose their new database to be suitable both for fundamental studies and for practical purposes such creating medical drugs as antiarrhythmics containing potassium channels blockers.

In the nearest future, the researchers plan to complement Kalium with peptides isolated from other animals: spiders, bees and snakes.

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