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The natural stinging tree toxin matches the pain of spiders and scorpions



The natural stinging tree toxin matches the pain of spiders and scorpions

Gympie Gympie̵

7;s stinging tree has needle-like trichomes that can inject toxins. Image source: Institute of Molecular Biological Sciences, University of Queensland

Researchers at the University of Queensland have found that the painful toxins produced by the giant Australian stinging trees are surprisingly similar to the venom found in spiders and cone snails.


Gympie-Gympie stinging tree is one of the most poisonous plants in the world and can cause extremely persistent pain.

Associate Professor Irina Vetter of the Institute of Molecular Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland, Dr. Thomas Durek and his team have discovered a new family of toxins. They named it’Gympietides’ and its name is Gympie-Gympie Stinging Tree.

The scientific name of the tree is Dendrocnide, which literally means “pungent tree”. It is a member of the Nettle family. It can extend from the northern river region of New South Wales, Australia, through Gympie, Queensland, to the Cape York Peninsula The top.

“Australia’s stinging tree species are particularly notorious for producing painful stings. Unlike the stinging tree species of relatives in Europe and North America, stinging trees can last for days or weeks.

“Like other stinging plants such as nettle, the huge thorn tree is covered by needle-like appendages, called trichomes, about five millimeters long. The trichomes look like fine hairs, but they are actually like subcutaneous injections. Needles, when they touch, will inject toxins into the skin.” Associate Professor Witte said.

Historically, small molecules in trichomes such as histamine, acetylcholine and formic acid have been tested, but injection of these molecules does not cause severe and long-lasting pain in the stinging tree, which indicates the presence of unknown neurotoxins.

Associate Professor Vetter said: “We are interested in knowing if any neurotoxins can explain these symptoms and why Gympie-Gympie causes such long-lasting pain.”

The pain-causing component of giant nettles is microproteins, which modulate ion channels and are similar to toxins found in poisonous animals. Image source: Institute of Molecular Biological Sciences, University of Queensland

The team did indeed discover this neurotoxin-a new type of microprotein, which they named “Gympietides” after the plant’s local name.

“Although witch hazel comes from plants, they fold into 3D molecular structures and target the same pain receptors in a way similar to spider and cone snail toxins. This can be said to make the golden jeep-gypsy tree truly “toxic” plant.

Associate Professor Vetter said that the long-term pain caused by the stinging tree may be due to witch hazel permanently changing the sodium channels of sensory neurons, rather than because the fine hairs are stuck on the skin.

She said: “By understanding the role of this toxin, we hope to provide better treatments for people who are stunted by plants to reduce or eliminate pain.”

“We can also potentially use witch hazel as a new treatment for pain relief.”

These toxins in plants and animals have a common method of causing pain, which raises the question of when and how do these toxins evolve?

The researchers pointed out two possibilities for toxins to evolve from the ancestor genes of the ancient shared ancestors to the fusion evolution. In nature, nature reinvented the most suitable structure to suit the common purpose.

The research team hopes that gymnasts will provide new information about pain nerve function and help develop new painkillers.


“The worst pain you can imagine”-the feeling of a stinging tree


More information:
EK Gilding et al. “Neurotoxic peptides in the venom of the giant st tree in Australia”, Scientific progress (2020). advances.sciencemag.org/lookup….1126 / sciadv.abb8828

Provided by the University of Queensland

Citation: Natural stinging tree toxins match the pain of spiders and scorpions (September 16, 2020), from https://phys.org/news/2020-09-native-tree-toxins-pain-spiders.html Retrieved to September 17, 2020

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