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Study: Toxins produced by tube-dwelling anemones have pharmacological potential

Publicado em 28 outubro 2020

Por André Julião | Agência FAPESP

The analysis revealed that the toxins that can act on the nervous system, cardiovascular system, and cell walls, among other functions, paving the way to the discovery of novel medications.

"Tube anemones and sea anemones were assigned to the same family for a long time, but since 2014 our group has shown that aside from external anatomy they're very different.

They display distinct forms of behavior, lifecycle, and other traits. We assumed the toxins they produce must also be different," said Sérgio Stampar, a professor in São Paulo State University's School of Sciences and Letters (FCL-UNESP) at Assis, Brazil, and principal investigator for the study, which is published in the journal Marine Drugs.

The research was supported by FAPESP via funding for three projects (15/24408-4, 19/03552-0 and 17/50028-0), and was conducted in collaboration with scientists affiliated with the University of Kansas, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Florida Southern College.

The researchers took samples of the animals' tentacles and extracted the RNA, which they then sequenced. They used bioinformatics software to classify most of what was transcribed, which they grouped into families of toxins. The analysis showed that 525 genes were associated with these substances.

The toxins belong to families also found in jellyfish, whose venoms burn humans and can even kill them. In addition, because anemones' tentacles are part of their digestive system, the researchers expected to find similar compounds in both groups.

More than substances used in digestion, however, tube anemones produce neurotoxins and other substances that affect the bloodstream and destroy cell walls, as is typical of toxins used to kill prey and defend against predators.

Curiously enough, there are no reports of accidents involving these animals. I've handled them without gloves a few times and never been stung. We don't yet know why humans aren't affected by their toxic arsenal." Sérgio…