Why Poison Frogs Don’t Poison Themselves

The answer provide clues for developing better drugs to fight pain and addiction.

 

Don’t let their appearance fool you: Thimble-sized, dappled in cheerful colors and squishy, poison frogs in fact harbor some of the most potent neurotoxins we know. With a new paper published in the journal Science, scientists are a step closer to resolving a related head-scratcher — how do these frogs keep from poisoning themselves? And the answer has potential consequences for the fight against pain and addiction.

 

The new research, led by scientists at The University of Texas at Austin, answers this question for a subgroup of poison frogs that use the toxin epibatidine. To keep predators from eating them, the frogs use the toxin, which binds to receptors in an animal’s nervous system and can cause hypertension, seizures, and even death. The researchers discovered that a small genetic mutation in the frogs — a change in just three of the 2,500 amino acids that make up the receptor — prevents the toxin from acting on the frogs’ own receptors, making them resistant to its lethal effects. Not only that, but precisely the same change appeared independently three times in the evolution of these frogs.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: news.utexas.edu

Tags: