1341125_Srodawa,K_2023.pdf (2.07 MB)
Evolution of Three-Finger Toxin Genes in Neotropical Colubrine Snakes (Colubridae)
journal contributionposted on 2023-09-18, 06:23 authored by Kristy Srodawa, Peter A Cerda, Alison R Davis Rabosky, Jenna Crowe-RiddellJenna Crowe-Riddell
Snake venom research has historically focused on front-fanged species (Viperidae and Elapidae), limiting our knowledge of venom evolution in rear-fanged snakes across their ecologically diverse phylogeny. Three-finger toxins (3FTxs) are a known neurotoxic component in the venoms of some rear-fanged snakes (Colubridae: Colubrinae), but it is unclear how prevalent 3FTxs are both in expression within venom glands and more broadly among colubrine species. Here, we used a transcriptomic approach to characterize the venom expression profiles of four species of colubrine snakes from the Neotropics that were dominated by 3FTx expression (in the genera Chironius, Oxybelis, Rhinobothryum, and Spilotes). By reconstructing the gene trees of 3FTxs, we found evidence of putative novel heterodimers in the sequences of Chironius multiventris and Oxybelis aeneus, revealing an instance of parallel evolution of this structural change in 3FTxs among rear-fanged colubrine snakes. We also found positive selection at sites within structural loops or “fingers” of 3FTxs, indicating these areas may be key binding sites that interact with prey target molecules. Overall, our results highlight the importance of exploring the venoms of understudied species in reconstructing the full evolutionary history of toxins across the tree of life.