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Scorpion (Odontobuthus doriae) venom induces apoptosis and inhibits DNA synthesis in human neuroblastoma cells


Scorpion and its organs have been used to cure epilepsy, rheumatism, and male impotency since medieval times. Scorpion venom which contains different compounds like enzyme and non-enzyme proteins, ions, free amino acids, and other organic inorganic substances have been reported to posses antiproliferative, cytotoxic, apoptogenic, and immunosuppressive properties. We for the first time report the apoptotic and antiproliferative effects of scorpion venom (Odontobuthus doriae) in human neuroblastoma cells. After exposure of cells to medium containing varying concentrations of venom (10, 25, 50, 100, and 200 μg/ml), cell viability decreased to 90.75, 75.53, 55.52, 37.85, and 14.30%, respectively, after 24 h. Cells expressed morphological changes like swelling, inhibition of neurite outgrowth, irregular shape, aggregation, rupture of membrane, and release of cytosolic contents after treatment with venom. Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) level increased in 50 and 100 μg/ml as compared to control, but there was no significant increase in LDH level at a dose of 10 and 20 μg/ml. Two concentrations viz. 50 and 100 μg/ml were selected because of the profound effect of these concentrations on the cellular health and population. Treatment with these two concentrations induced reactive nitrogen intermediates and depolarization in mitochondria. While caspase-3 activity increased in a concentration-dependent manner, only 50 μg/ml was able to fragment DNA. It was interesting to note that at higher dose, i.e., 100 μg/ml, the cells were killed, supposedly by acute necrosis. DNA synthesis evidenced by bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation was inhibited in a concentration-dependent manner. The cells without treatment incorporated BrdU with high affinity confirming their cancerous nature whereas very less incorporation was noticed in treated cells. Our results show apoptotic and antiproliferative potential of scorpion venom (O. doriae) in human neuroblastoma cells. These properties make scorpion venom a valuable therapeutic agent in cancer research.

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Authors are thankful to Dr. G.N Qazi (Vice Chancellor, Jamia Hamdard) for his continued support during this study. Authors also express their gratitude to NCCS, Pune for timely shipment of the cell lines. Department of Biochemistry acknowledges the support of DST to establish infrastructure for animal tissue culture facility under FIST program.

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The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Haider A. Khan.

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Zargan, J., Sajad, M., Umar, S. et al. Scorpion (Odontobuthus doriae) venom induces apoptosis and inhibits DNA synthesis in human neuroblastoma cells. Mol Cell Biochem 348, 173–181 (2011).

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  • Scorpion venom
  • Odontobuthus doriae
  • Mitochondrial membrane potential
  • Caspase-3
  • BrdU