Genetic and Ecological Correlates of Intraspecific Variation in Pitviper Venom Composition Detected Using Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS) and Isoelectric Focusing
The ability to detect biochemical diversity in animal venoms has wide-ranging implications for a diverse array of scientific disciplines. Matrix-assisted laser desorption time-of-flight mass spectrometry (and, for comparative purposes, isoelectric focusing) were used to characterize venoms from a geographically diverse sample of Trimeresurus stejnegeri (n < 229) from Taiwan. Previously unrealised levels of heterogeneity were detected in venom phospholipase A2 isoforms (PLA2) and in whole venom profiles. Geographic variation in venom was primarily between Taiwan and two Pacific islets. Despite the common assumption that venom variation is a product of neutral molecular evolution, statistical testing failed to link venom variation with phylogenetic descent convincingly. Instead, pronounced differences in venom composition may be the product of natural selection for regional diets or of independent founder effects. More data are required on the functional differences between the isoforms to distinguish between these alternatives.
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