Hypersensitivity in the anterior median eye of a jumping spider.
Changes in sensitivity of the photoreceptor cells of the anterior median eye of the jumping spider Menemerus confusus Boes. et Str. have been studied by recording electroretinograms (ERGs) and receptor potentials. The amplitudes of the responses (ERGs and receptor potentials) increase during repetitive stimulation, with a maximum increase at 3-5 s intervals. The sensitivity of the photoreceptor cell is greater for about 60 s following illumination (maximum magnitude at 3-5 s) than it is during complete dark adaptation. This phenomenon, which we call 'hypersensitivity', is lost within one day following surgery in physiological saline. Upon loss of hypersensitivity, the sensitivity decrease during light adaptation is greater than for the normal eye and the small increase of sensitivity following the onset of illumination observed for the normal eye is lost. (+info)
Purification from black widow spider venom of a protein factor causing the depletion of synaptic vesicles at neuromuscular junctions.
The aqueous extract of the venom glands of black widow spiders was fractionated on a column of Sephadex G-200 and then on a column of DEAE-Sephadex A-50 pH 8.2. A protein fraction was obtained that caused a great increase in the frequency of occurrence of miniature end plate potentials at the frog neuromuscular junction, and caused swelling of the nerve terminals and depleted them of their vesicles. The fraction consists of a least four protein components that are similar in their molecular weights (about 130,000) and isoelectric points (ranging from pH 5.2 to 5.5) and are immunologically indistinguishable. It contains no sugar residues and has little or no lipolytic or proteolytic activity. The fraction is toxic to mice and is different from the fractions that act on houseflies, the crayfish stretch receptor and the cockroach heart. It seems pure enough to warrant a detailed study of its site and mode of action. (+info)
Sexually transmitted chemical defense in a moth (Utetheisa ornatrix).
The arctiid moth Utetheisa ornatrix is protected against predation by pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) that it sequesters as a larva from its food plant. Earlier work had shown that males transmit PA to the female with the sperm package and that the female bestows part of this gift on the eggs, protecting these against predation as a result. We now show that the female herself derives protection from the gift. Females deficient in PA are vulnerable to predation from spiders (Lycosa ceratiola and Nephila clavipes). If mated with a PA-laden male, the females become unacceptable as prey. The effect takes hold promptly and endures; females are unacceptable to spiders virtually from the moment they uncouple from the male and remain unacceptable as they age. Chemical data showed that the female allocates the received PA quickly to all body parts. We predict that other instances will be found of female insects being rendered invulnerable by receipt of sexually transmitted chemicals. (+info)
Voltage-activated potassium outward currents in two types of spider mechanoreceptor neurons.
We studied the properties of voltage-activated outward currents in two types of spider cuticular mechanoreceptor neurons to learn if these currents contribute to the differences in their adaptation properties. Both types of neurons adapt rapidly to sustained stimuli, but type A neurons usually only fire one or two action potentials, whereas type B neurons can fire bursts lasting several hundred milliseconds. We found that both neurons had two outward current components, 1) a transient current that activated rapidly when stimulated from resting potential and inactivated with maintained stimuli and 2) a noninactivating outward current. The transient outward current could be blocked by 5 mM tetraethylammonium chloride, 5 mM 4-aminopyridine, or 100 microM quinidine, but these blockers also reduced the amplitude of the noninactivating outward current. Charybdotoxin or apamin did not have any effect on the outward currents, indicating that Ca2+-activated K+ currents were not present or not inhibited by these toxins. The only significant differences between type A and type B neurons were found in the half-maximal activation (V50) values of both currents. The transient current had a V50 value of 9. 6 mV in type A neurons and -13.1 mV in type B neurons, whereas the V50 values of noninactivating outward currents were -48.9 mV for type A neurons and -56.7 mV for type B neurons. We conclude that, although differences in the activation kinetics of the voltage-activated K+ currents could contribute to the difference in the adaptation behavior of type A and type B neurons, they are not major factors. (+info)
Effects of size, motility and paralysation time of prey on the quantity of venom injected by the hunting spider Cupiennius salei.
Previous experimental studies have shown that neotropical wandering spiders (Cupiennius salei) inject more venom when attacking larger crickets. It has been postulated that this is a consequence of predator-prey interactions during envenomation, which increase in intensity with the size of a given prey species. The present study was designed to test this hypothesis using anaesthetized crickets of different sizes that were moved artificially. Cupiennius salei was found (1) to inject more venom the greater the intensity of the struggling movement of the crickets (prey size kept constant); (2) to inject more venom the longer the duration of the struggling movement of the crickets (prey size and intensity of movement kept constant); and (3) to inject equal amounts into crickets of different size (duration and intensity of movement kept constant). These results indicate that C. salei alters the amount of venom it releases according to the size and motility of its prey. Venom expenditure depends mainly on the extent of the interactions with the prey during the envenomation process, whereas prey size is of minor significance. The regulation of venom injection in concert with behavioural adaptations in response to various types of prey minimizes the energetic cost of venom production, thus increasing the profitability of a given prey item. (+info)
Inhibition of glutamate uptake by a polypeptide toxin (phoneutriatoxin 3-4) from the spider Phoneutria nigriventer.
Glutamate concentration increases significantly in the extracellular compartment during brain ischaemia and anoxia. This increase has an important Ca(2+)-independent component, which is due in part to the reversal of glutamate transporters of the plasma membrane of neurons and glia. The toxin phoneutriatoxin 3-4 (Tx3-4) from the spider Phoneutria nigriventer has been reported to decrease the evoked glutamate release from synaptosomes by inhibiting Ca(2+) entry via voltage-dependent Ca(2+) channels. However, we report here that Tx3-4 is also able to inhibit the uptake of glutamate by synaptosomes in a time-dependent manner and that this inhibition in turn leads to a decrease in the Ca(2+)-independent release of glutamate. No other polypeptide toxin so far described has this effect. Our results suggest that Tx3-4 can be a valuable tool in the investigation of function and dysfunction of glutamatergic neurotransmission in diseases such as ischaemia. (+info)
The mechanical design of spider silks: from fibroin sequence to mechanical function.
Spiders produce a variety of silks, and the cloning of genes for silk fibroins reveals a clear link between protein sequence and structure-property relationships. The fibroins produced in the spider's major ampullate (MA) gland, which forms the dragline and web frame, contain multiple repeats of motifs that include an 8-10 residue long poly-alanine block and a 24-35 residue long glycine-rich block. When fibroins are spun into fibres, the poly-alanine blocks form (&bgr;)-sheet crystals that crosslink the fibroins into a polymer network with great stiffness, strength and toughness. As illustrated by a comparison of MA silks from Araneus diadematus and Nephila clavipes, variation in fibroin sequence and properties between spider species provides the opportunity to investigate the design of these remarkable biomaterials. (+info)
Spider hemocyanin binds ecdysone and 20-OH-ecdysone.
Fluorescence quenching studies and binding experiments with [(3)H]ecdysone reveal that the respiratory protein, hemocyanin, of the tarantula Eurypelma californicum binds ecdysone. The binding constant for ecdysone ranges between 0.5 and 5 mM, indicating a low affinity binding. However, it is comparable with those found for the ecdysone binding to hexamerins from insects. Based on a comparison of sequences and x-ray structures of arthropodan hemocyanins, we propose an evolutionary conserved hydrophobic pocket in domain 1 of the hemocyanin subunit that may bind ecdysone. (+info)