Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 335, Issue 3, pp 617–629 | Cite as

Venom apparatus of the Brazilian tarantula Vitalius dubius Mello-Leitão 1923 (Theraphosidae)

  • Thomaz A. A. Rocha-e-Silva
  • Carla B. Collares-Buzato
  • Maria Alice da Cruz-Höfling
  • Stephen Hyslop
Regular Article


Tarantula venoms are a cocktail of proteins and peptides that have been increasingly studied in recent years. In contrast, less attention has been given to analyzing the structure of the paired cephalic glands that produce the venom. We have used light, electron, and confocal microscopy to study the organization and structure of the venom gland of the Brazilian tarantula Vitalius dubius. The chelicerae are hairy chitinous structures, each with a single curved hollow fang that opens via an orifice on the anterior surface. Internally, each chelicera contains striated muscle fiber bundles that control fang extension and retraction, and a cylindrical conical venom gland surrounded by a thick well-developed layer of obliquely arranged muscle fibers. Light microscopy of longitudinal and transverse sections showed that the gland secretory epithelium consists of a sponge-like network of slender epithelial cell processes with numerous bridges and interconnections that form lacunae containing secretion. This secretory epithelium is supported by a basement membrane containing elastic fibers. The entire epithelial structure of the venom-secreting cells is reinforced by a dense network of F-actin intermediate filaments, as shown by staining with phalloidin. Neural elements (axons and acetylcholinesterase activity) are also associated with the venom gland. Transmission electron microscopy of the epithelium revealed an ultrastructure typical of secretory cells, including abundant rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, an extensive Golgi apparatus, and numerous mitochondria.


Cytoskeleton Fang F-actin Histology Secretory epithelium Ultrastructure Venom gland Spider, Vitalius dubius (Arachnida, Mygalomorpha) 



The authors thank Juares Bianco for technical assistance, Dr. Áureo T. Yamada (Departamento de Histologia e Embriologia, IB, UNICAMP) for permission to use the imaging system in his laboratory, Dr. Sebastião R. Taboga (Departamento de Biologia, IBILCE, UNESP, São José do Rio Preto, SP, Brazil) for helpful comments during revision of the manuscript, and regional Centers for the Control of Zoonoses (Itú and Campinas, SP) for providing the spiders used in this study.

This work is part of a PhD thesis by T.A.A.R.S. presented to the Curso de Pós-Graduação em Biologia Celular e Estrutural (Departamento de Biologia Celular, Instituto de Biologia, UNICAMP) and was supported by a studentship from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP). M.A.C.H. and S.H. are supported by research fellowships from the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq, Brazil).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomaz A. A. Rocha-e-Silva
    • 1
    • 3
  • Carla B. Collares-Buzato
    • 2
  • Maria Alice da Cruz-Höfling
    • 2
  • Stephen Hyslop
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Farmacologia, Faculdade de Ciências MédicasUniversidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP)CampinasBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Histologia e Embriologia, Instituto de BiologiaUniversidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP)CampinasBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de Ciências Fisiológicas, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas da Santa Casa de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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