Proteolytic activity of Elapid and Viperid Snake venoms and its implication to digestion

Research Article

J Venom Res (2010), Vol 1, 18-28

Published online: 30 September 2010

Full Text: (PDF ~419kb) | (PubMed Central Record HTML)

Joshua L Bottrall †‡*, Frank Madaras ‡§, Christopher D Biven †, Michael G Venning †, Peter J Mirtschin ‡§

† School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, Sansom Institute, University of South Australia, Frome Road, Adelaide, 5000, Australia

‡ Venom Supplies Pty Ltd, PO Box 547, Tanunda, South Australia, 5352, Australia

§ Venom Science Pty Ltd, PO Box 547, Tanunda, South Australia, 5352, Australia

*Correspondence to: Joshua Bottrall, Email:, Tel: +61 8 8302 2391, Fax: +61 8 8302 2389

Received: 14 July 2010, Revised: 31 August 2010, Accepted: 01 September 2010

© Copyright The Authors


Testing whether venoms may aid in digestion of the prey, eleven snake venoms were compared for the presence of proteases and endopeptidases that function in alkaline pH conditions. In vitroexperiments examined the relative protease and endopeptidase activity of the venoms, which involved combining bovine muscle and snake venom in a buffered solution, encased within dialysis tubing. This mixture was then incubated at room temperature (~20°C) for 24hr, with constant shaking. Bicinchoninic acid (BCA) assay and ninhydrin assay were used to determine peptide and amino acid concentrations. Histological and immunohistochemical investigations using N. kaouthiavenom confirmed in vitro findings. Results show that B. arietans venom generated the highest amount of protein/peptides and amino acids in the dialysates, while O. scutellatus, N. ater niger andP. textilis venom did not show any significant protein degradation under alkaline conditions. Histological examination revealed varying degrees of muscle cell damage for each of the venom investigated, and the immunohistochemical study on N. kaouthia venom showed that the venom penetrated the muscle tissue to a significant degree. In vitro assays and histological results indicate that particular venoms may possess the ability to enhance digestion of bovine muscle tissue.

KEYWORDS: Proteolytic activity, digestion, alkaline protease, elapid, viperid, venom