Sequence analysis of the cDNA encoding for SpCTx: a lethal factor from scorpionfish venom ( Scorpaena plumieri )
Abstract Background: Lethal factors are multifunctional oligomeric proteins found in the venomous apparatus of Scorpaeniformes fish. These toxins elicit not only an array of biological responses in vitro but also cardiovascular disorders and strong hemolytic, nociceptive and edematogenic activities in vivo. This work describes the cloning and molecular identification of two toxin subunits, denominated Sp-CTx-α and Sp-CTx-β, from scorpionfish venom ( Scorpaena plumieri ). Methods: The primary structures were deduced after cDNA amplification by PCR with primers from conserved sequences described in Scorpaeniformes toxins. Following DNA sequencing and bioinformatic analysis, the tridimensional structures of both subunits were modeled. Results: The translated sequences (702 amino acids, each subunit) show homology with other lethal factors, while alignment between Sp-CTx-α and Sp-CTx-β shows 54% identity. The subunits lack N-terminal signal sequences and display masses of approximately 80 kDa each. Both Sp-CTx subunits display a B30.2/SPRY domain at the C-terminal region with typically conserved motifs as described in these toxins. Secondary structure prediction identified six α-helices 18 residues long in both α and β subunits, some of them amphiphilic with their N-terminal flanked by many basic residues, creating a cationic site associated with the cytolytic activity of these toxins. Antimicrobial potential sites were identified in Sp-CTx and share some features with other peptides presenting variable and broad-spectrum activity. A phylogenetic tree built to represent these toxins supports the proximity between scorpionfish, lionfish and stonefish. Conclusion: The study identified a putative toxin protein whose primary structure is similar to other fish toxins and with potential for production of antivenom against scorpionfish envenomation in Brazil. As a prelude to structure-function studies, we propose that the toxin is structurally related to pore-forming marine toxins.