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Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 113–125 | Cite as

Snake Population Venomics: Proteomics-Based Analyses of Individual Variation Reveals Significant Gene Regulation Effects on Venom Protein Expression in Sistrurus Rattlesnakes

  • H. Lisle Gibbs
  • Libia Sanz
  • Juan J. Calvete
Article

Abstract

Studies of the molecular basis of adaptations seek to understand the relative importance of structural changes in proteins versus gene regulation effects as determinants of phenotype. Amino acid substitutions in gene coding sequences are well documented as causes of variation in snake venom proteins, whereas the importance of gene regulation effects on venom protein abundance and composition is less well known. Here, we use a proteomics-based approach to infer the effects of gene regulation on protein expression by comparing the relative abundance of specific, known venom proteins among different individuals in each of two species of Sistrurus rattlesnakes. Variation in the presence or absence, and in the relative amounts, of proteins was high in both species across all major protein families. Based on our empirical criteria for inferring regulatory effects (presence-absence of specific proteins and/or more than threefold variation in abundance) between 51% and 83% of S. catenatus individuals and between 40% and 63% of S. miliarius individuals showed evidence for gene regulation across the four most abundant proteins (disintegrins, phospholipase A2’s, serine proteinases, and snake venom metalloproteases). Thus, the effects of gene regulation should be considered an important cause of variation in the composition of whole venoms at the intraspecific level. They also suggest the need for testing the adaptive hypothesis for venom plasticity in relation to prey consumed by adult snakes. Finally, the venom variability reported may have an impact in the treatment of bite victims, highlighting the necessity of using pooled venoms as a substrate for antivenom production.

Keywords

Snake venom proteins Sistrurus rattlesnakes Proteomics analyses Gene regulation 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Paulo Nuin for provision of a preliminary version of his metaComps program; Jimmy Chiucchi, Michael Dreslik, Terry Farrell, Dan Harvey, and Doug Wynn for help in obtaining venom samples; and Erich Grotewald and Laura Kubatko for discussion. H.L.G. also thanks John Pérez and Elda Sánchez for their generous advice and assistance at the start of his work on venomous snakes. This study was financed by Grant BFU2007-61563 from the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Madrid, Spain, and by funds from the Ohio State University.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal BiologyOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Instituto de Biomedicina de Valencia, CSICValenciaSpain

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