Snake Venoms

Volume 52 of the series Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology pp 159-212

Chemistry of Protein Toxins in Snake Venoms

  • E. Karlsson

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The main function of snake venoms lies in the procuring of food and its digestion. The death of the prey is due to respiratory or circulatory failure caused by various neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, coagulation factors, and other substances acting alone or synergistically. The various enzymes injected into the prey start the digestion of the tissues. The venoms thus contain substances designed to affect vital processes, such as the function of nerves and muscles, the action of the heart, the circulation of the blood, and the permeability of membranes. Snake venoms and other toxic secretions contain a large number of pharmacologically highly active substances with a specific mode of action. Since such compounds are of great value in the investigation of important physiologic processes, the research on venoms is not the esoteric activity that one might think it to be considering the exotic origin of many venoms.