The Doratifera vulnerans is the endemic caterpillar of much of southeastern Australia, specifically in Toohey Forest Park Queensland, south of Brisbane. A research group of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience has studied it for its particular poison, which could be promising for pharmaceutical and pesticide use.
The dr. Andrew Walker, the author of the study, said: ” We found one while collecting killer insects near Toowoomba, and we were immediately fascinated by its strange biology and its particular venom. Its name can indeed be translated – bringer of wound gifts. – concerning its toxin which causes severe pain to the victim who is bitten “.
The study of dr. Walker discovered that the caterpillar indeed possesses a venom with a molecular structure very similar to that produced by spiders, wasps, bees, and ants. A source of bioactive peptides that could also have utility in the medical and biotechnology fields.
” Previously, researchers had no idea what was in the venom, or how it induced pain, our research revealed that these toxic substances are mainly made up of peptides of surprising complexity, containing as many as 151 different protein-based toxins. and from 59 different strains, “added Dr. Walker.
The team of researchers, with the amino acid knowledge gained from the study, synthesized 13 peptide toxins and used them to show the unique evolutionary path that Doratifera vulnerans followed to create a venom that would induce pain to its victims.
This work will make it possible to produce new toxins as soon as possible to test them in different ways. Some peptides already produced in the laboratory, as part of the research, have indeed shown a very high poisonous capacity, with the potential to effectively kill both nematode parasites that infest livestock, and pathogens that cause disease.
The research, published in the National Academy of Sciences Acts, unlocks the knowledge for a new source of bioactive peptides that can be used in medicine, through their ability to influence biological processes, promoting health protection.