Identification of crotasin, a crotamine-related gene ofCrotalus durissus terrificus

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Crotamine is a cationic peptide (4.9 kDa, pI 9.5) of South American rattlesnake, Crotalus durissus terrificus' venom. Its presence varies according to the subspecies or the geographical locality of a given species. At the genomic level, we observed the presence of 1.8 kb gene, Crt-p1, in crotamine-positive specimens and its absence in crotamine-negative ones. In this work, we described a crotamine-related 2.5 kb gene, crotasin (Cts-p2), isolated from crotamine-negative specimens. Reverse transcription coupled to polymerase chain reaction indicates that Cts-p2 is abundantly expressed in several snake tissues, but scarcely expressed in the venom gland. The genome of crotamine-positive specimen contains both Crt-p1 and Cts-p2 genes. The present data suggest that both crotamine and crotasin have evolved by duplication of a common ancestor gene, and the conservation of their three disulfide bonds indicates that they might adopt the same fold as β-defensin. The physiological function of the crotasin is not yet known.

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