Native stinging tree toxins match the pain of spiders and scorpions


Gympipe Gympie stinging trees have needle-like trichomes that inject toxins. Sincerely: Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland

The painful toxins erased by a giant Australian stinging tree are surprisingly similar to the venom found in spiders and conifer snails, researchers at the University of Queensland have found.


Gympipe-Gympie Stinging tree is one of the most toxic plants in the world and causes long lasting pain.

Associate Professor Irina Vetter, Drs. Thomas Durek and his teams at the UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience found a new family of toxins, which they have named ‘Gympitides’ after the Gimpit-Gimpi Sting Tree.

The scientific name of the tree is Dendrocnide, which literally means ‘stinging tree’ – a member of the nettle family, which can be found in Australia via the Gimpi QLD in the Northern Rivers region of the NSW and head to the tip of the Cape York Peninsula Can.

“Australian stinging tree species are particularly notorious for producing excruciatingly painful sting, which can cause symptoms unlike their European and North American relatives who live for days or weeks.

“Other stinging plants, such as nettles, giant stinging trees, are covered in needle-like appendages called trichomes that are about five millimeters in length – trichomes look like fine hair, but are actually hypodermic needles. Acts that inject toxins upon contact. With the skin, “said Associate Professor Waiter.

Historically, small molecules such as histamine, acetylcholine, and formic acid have been tested in trichomes, but injecting these did not cause severe and long-lasting pain in the stinging tree, suggesting that a Unqualified neurotoxin was to be found.

“We were interested in finding out if there were any neurotoxins that could explain these symptoms, and why Gympie-Gympai can cause pain lasting so long,” Associate Professor Waiter said.

The pain-inducing components of giant stinging nets are miniproteins that modulate ion channels and resemble toxins found in venomous animals. Credit: Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland

The team actually found such neurotoxins — an entirely new class of minipotrotins that they called “Gympitides” after the indigenous name for the plant.

“Although they come from a plant, Gympitoids are similar to spider and cone venom toxins, the way they transform into their 3-D molecular structures and target the same pain receptors – this is arguably Gympai-Gympipe What really makes the tree “toxic” is the plant.

Associate Professor Waiter said that the long-lasting pain from the stinging tree could be explained by gimpeptides permanently altering sodium channels in sensory neurons, and not by having fine hairs in the skin.

“By understanding how this toxin works, we hope to provide better treatment to those who have stinged with the plant to reduce or eliminate pain”.

“We can potentially use Gympitides as a scaffold for new treatments for pain relief.”

With these toxins from both plants and animals with a shared method of causing pain, the question also arises as to when and how did these toxins develop?

Researchers have indicated two possibilities for the development of toxin from ancestral genes either in an ancient shared ancestor or convergent evolution, where nature re-invites the most fitting structure to fit a common purpose.

The research team hopes that gympitoids will provide new information about how the pain-sensing nerves work and contribute to the development of new pain relievers.


‘The worst kind of pain you can imagine’ – it’s like stinging a stinging tree


more information:
EK Gilding et al., “Neurotoxic peptides from the toxin of the giant Australian sting tree” Science advance (2020). In advance. sciencemag.org/lookup… .1126 / Sciadv.abb8828

Is provided by the University of Queensland

Quotes: Native Stinging Tree Toxins Match the Pain of Spiders and Scorpions (2020, 16 September) from https://phys.org/news/2020-09-native-tree-toxins-pain.pider.html on 17 September 2020 receive again

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