Natural phospholipase A(2) myotoxin inhibitor proteins from snakes, mammals and plants

Toxicon. 2003 Dec 15;42(8):963-77. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2003.11.007.


A renewed interest in the phenomenon of inter- and intra-species resistance towards the toxicity of snake venoms, coupled with the search for new strategies for treatment of snake envenomations, has prompted the discovery of proteins which neutralize the major toxic components of these venoms. Among these emerging groups of proteins are inhibitors of toxic phospholipases A2 (PLA2s), many of which exhibit a wide range of toxic effects including muscle-tissue damage, neurotoxicity, and inflammation. These proteins have been isolated from both venomous and non-venomous snakes, mammals, and most recently from medicinal plant extracts. The snake blood-derived inhibitors have been grouped into three major classes, alpha, beta, and gamma, based on common structural motifs found in other proteins with diverse physiological properties. In mammals, DM64, an anti-myotoxic protein isolated from opossum serum, belongs to the immunoglobulin super gene family and is homologous to human alpha1B-glycoprotein and DM43, a metalloproteinase inhibitor from the same organism. In plants, a short note is made of WSG, a newly described anti-toxic-PLA2 glycoprotein isolated from Withania somnifera (Ashwaganda), a medicinal plant whose aqueous extracts neutralize the PLA2 activity of the Naja naja venom. The implications of these new groups of PLA2 toxin inhibitors in the context of our current understanding of snake biology as well as in the development of novel therapeutic reagents in the treatment of snake envenomations worldwide are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism
  • Crotalid Venoms / metabolism
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Phospholipases A / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Phospholipases A / toxicity
  • Phospholipases A2
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Snake Venoms / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Snake Venoms / toxicity
  • Snakes*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Blood Proteins
  • Crotalid Venoms
  • DM43 protein, Didelphis marsupialis
  • DM64 protein, Didelphis marsupialis
  • Glycoproteins
  • Snake Venoms
  • myotoxin inhibitor protein, Bothrops moojeni
  • phospholipase A2 inhibitory protein, Naja naja kaouthia
  • Phospholipases A
  • Phospholipases A2