Special Issue "Using Genomics to Understand Venom Evolution"

A special issue of Toxins (ISSN 2072-6651). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Venoms".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 August 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Mark J. Margres
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620, USA
Interests: evolutionary genomics; adaptation; coevolution; gene regulation; gene expression; population venomics
Dr. Jason L. Strickland
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biology, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL 36688, USA
Interests: comparative genomics; gene family evolution; gene expression; population venomics; trait evolution

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Venoms are complex cocktails of peptides, proteins, and/or organic molecules that have multiple origins across the animal tree of life. Animal venoms have emerged as a model system for understanding the genotype–phenotype relationship in polygenic traits because of their genetic tractability, contributions to fitness, and exceptionally high evolutionary rates. Although venoms are commonly investigated using transcriptomics and proteomics, genomic information is required to understand the processes and mechanisms that underlie venoms’ multiple origins, as well as the mechanisms producing the exceptional degree of variation known in these systems. High-quality genome data for venomous species are still sparse relative to those for other systems, although several recent studies have begun addressing this knowledge gap, in particular venomous lineages. The aim of this Special Issue is to publish genomics-based research to further our understanding of venom evolution using data generated through whole-genome sequencing, sequence capture, RAD-seq, BAC clones, Sanger sequencing, and other genomic approaches. This issue is expected to publish original research articles, reviews, and short communications in the broad area of venom genomics (but will not include studies solely relying on transcriptomes or proteomes). Since Toxins is a well-known journal in the field of venom research, we strongly believe that the articles published in this issue will reach a wide audience and aid in the generation of genomic data as a public resource and offer insight into the macro- and microevolutionary trends of venom evolution across a wide range of taxa.

Dr. Mark J. Margres
Dr. Jason L. Strickland
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Toxins is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • genomics
  • venom
  • adaptation
  • selection
  • gene expression
  • evolution
  • genetic architecture
  • sequence-capture
  • RAD-seq
  • whole-genome sequencing

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Widespread Evolution of Molecular Resistance to Snake Venom α-Neurotoxins in Vertebrates
Toxins 2020, 12(10), 638; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/toxins12100638 - 02 Oct 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2583
Venomous snakes are important subjects of study in evolution, ecology, and biomedicine. Many venomous snakes have alpha-neurotoxins (α-neurotoxins) in their venom. These toxins bind the alpha-1 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) at the neuromuscular junction, causing paralysis and asphyxia. Several venomous snakes and their [...] Read more.
Venomous snakes are important subjects of study in evolution, ecology, and biomedicine. Many venomous snakes have alpha-neurotoxins (α-neurotoxins) in their venom. These toxins bind the alpha-1 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) at the neuromuscular junction, causing paralysis and asphyxia. Several venomous snakes and their predators have evolved resistance to α-neurotoxins. The resistance is conferred by steric hindrance from N-glycosylated asparagines at amino acids 187 or 189, by an arginine at position 187 that has been hypothesized to either electrostatically repulse positively charged neurotoxins or sterically interfere with α-neurotoxin binding, or proline replacements at positions 194 or 197 of the nAChR ligand-binding domain to inhibit α-neurotoxin binding through structural changes in the receptor. Here, we analyzed this domain in 148 vertebrate species, and assessed its amino acid sequences for resistance-associated mutations. Of these sequences, 89 were sequenced de novo. We find widespread convergent evolution of the N-glycosylation form of resistance in several taxa including venomous snakes and their lizard prey, but not in the snake-eating birds studied. We also document new lineages with the arginine form of inhibition. Using an in vivo assay in four species, we provide further evidence that N-glycosylation mutations reduce the toxicity of cobra venom. The nAChR is of crucial importance for normal neuromuscular function and is highly conserved throughout the vertebrates as a result. Our research shows that the evolution of α-neurotoxins in snakes may well have prompted arms races and mutations to this ancient receptor across a wide range of sympatric vertebrates. These findings underscore the inter-connectedness of the biosphere and the ripple effects that one adaption can have across global ecosystems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Using Genomics to Understand Venom Evolution)
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