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Molecular biology and evolution DOI:10.1093/molbev/msu162

Clawing through evolution: toxin diversification and convergence in the ancient lineage Chilopoda (Centipedes).

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsUndheim, EA, Jones, A, Clauser, KR, Holland, JW, Pineda, SS, King, GF, Fry, BG
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Date Published2014/05/20

Despite the staggering diversity of venomous animals, there seems to be remarkable convergence in regards to the types of proteins used as toxin scaffolds. However, our understanding of this fascinating area of evolution has been hampered by the narrow taxonomical range studied, with entire groups of venomous animals remaining almost completely unstudied. One such group is centipedes, class Chilopoda, which emerged about 440 mya and may represent the oldest terrestrial venomous lineage next to scorpions. Here we provide the first comprehensive insight into the chilopod "venome" and its evolution, which has revealed novel and convergent toxin recruitments as well as entirely new toxin families among both high and low molecular weight venom components. The ancient evolutionary history of centipedes is also apparent from the differences between the Scolopendromorpha and Scutigeromorpha venoms, which diverged over 430 million years ago, and appear to employ substantially different venom strategies. The presence of a wide range of novel proteins and peptides in centipede venoms highlights these animals as a rich source of novel bioactive molecules. Understanding the evolutionary processes behind these ancient venom systems will not only broaden our understanding of which traits make proteins and peptides amenable to neofunctionalisation but it may also aid in directing bioprospecting efforts.