Crotoxin, the neurotoxin of South American rattlesnake venom, is a presynaptic toxin acting like β-bungarotoxin
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Crotoxin isolated from the venom of the Brazilian rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus terrificus) by chromatography on CM-Sephadex and Sephadex G-75 caused respiratory paralysis accompanied by peripheral neuromuscular blockade.
The chicken was more sensitive to crotoxin than the mouse whereas the rat was more resistant.
There was a slight initial facilitation and latent period before the decline of neuromuscular transmission started. In the media with low Ca2+ or high Mg2+, there was also an immediate depression before the facilitation.
The membrane potential, action potential and the response to high K+ of the isolated muscles were not significantly affected.
The response to exogenous acetylcholine and the amplitudes of m.e.p.p.s were also not affected.
The quantal contents of e.p.p.s were markedly depressed and the amplitudes of successive e.p.p.s elicited by a train of pulses at 100 Hz were well maintained.
The frequency of m.e.p.p.s in the mouse diaphragm, but not in the rat muscle, was first increased followed by a decrease when the evoked release of transmitter failed.
In the blocked muscle, high K+ was still able to evoke a burst of m.e.p.p.s, though less marked than in the untreated control.
The neuromuscular blocking activity of crotoxin was attenuated by an increase of Mg2+, Ca2+ or decrease of Ca2+ but augmented by increasing rates of stimulation.
The effect of crotoxin continued to progress even after washout.
The effects of crotoxin are very similar to those of β-bungarotoxin and most likely due to the presynaptic inhibition of the mechanism mediating the release of neurotransmitter in the nerve terminal.
Key wordsCrotoxin Neurotoxin β-Bungarotoxin Neuromuscular block Presynaptic action Snake venom
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