Spider venoms: a rich source of acylpolyamines and peptides as new leads for CNS drugs

Nat Prod Rep. 2007 Feb;24(1):145-61. doi: 10.1039/b603083c. Epub 2006 Dec 6.


Advances in NMR and mass spectrometry as well as in peptide biochemistry coupled to modern methods in electrophysiology have permitted the isolation and identification of numerous products from spider venoms, previously explored due to technical limitations. The chemical composition of spider venoms is diverse, ranging from low molecular weight organic compounds such as acylpolyamines to complex peptides. First, acylpolyamines (< 1000 Da) have an aromatic moiety linked to a hydrophilic lateral chain. They were characterized for the first time in spider venoms and are ligand-gated ion channel antagonists, which block mainly postsynaptic glutamate receptors in invertebrate and vertebrate nervous systems. Acylpolyamines represent the vast majority of organic components from the spider venom. Acylpolyamine analogues have proven to suppress hippocampal epileptic discharges. Moreover, acylpolyamines could suppress excitatory postsynaptic currents inducing Ca+ accumulation in neurons leading to protection against a brain ischemic insult. Second, short spider peptides (< 6000 Da) modulate ionic currents in Ca2+, Na+, or K+ voltage-gated ion channels. Such peptides may contain from three to four disulfide bridges. Some spider peptides act specifically to discriminate among Ca2+, Na+, or K+ ion channel subtypes. Their selective affinities for ion channel subfamilies are functional for mapping excitable cells. Furthermore, several of these peptides have proven to hyperpolarize peripheral neurons, which are associated with supplying sensation to the skin and skeletal muscles. Some spider N-type calcium ion channel blockers may be important for the treatment of chronic pain. A special group of spider peptides are the amphipathic and positively charged peptides. Their secondary structure is alpha-helical and they insert into the lipid cell membrane of eukaryotic or prokaryotic cells leading to the formation of pores and subsequently depolarizing the cell membrane. Acylpolyamines and peptides from spider venoms represent an interesting source of molecules for the design of novel pharmaceutical drugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System Agents*
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Peptides* / chemistry
  • Peptides* / isolation & purification
  • Peptides* / pharmacology
  • Polyamines* / chemistry
  • Polyamines* / isolation & purification
  • Polyamines* / pharmacology
  • Spider Venoms* / chemistry
  • Spider Venoms* / isolation & purification
  • Spider Venoms* / pharmacology


  • Central Nervous System Agents
  • Ion Channels
  • Peptides
  • Polyamines
  • Spider Venoms