Venom apparatus of the Brazilian tarantula Vitalius dubius Mello-Leitão 1923 (Theraphosidae)

Cell Tissue Res. 2009 Mar;335(3):617-29. doi: 10.1007/s00441-008-0738-x. Epub 2009 Jan 9.


Tarantula venoms are a cocktail of proteins and peptides that have been increasingly studied in recent years. In contrast, less attention has been given to analyzing the structure of the paired cephalic glands that produce the venom. We have used light, electron, and confocal microscopy to study the organization and structure of the venom gland of the Brazilian tarantula Vitalius dubius. The chelicerae are hairy chitinous structures, each with a single curved hollow fang that opens via an orifice on the anterior surface. Internally, each chelicera contains striated muscle fiber bundles that control fang extension and retraction, and a cylindrical conical venom gland surrounded by a thick well-developed layer of obliquely arranged muscle fibers. Light microscopy of longitudinal and transverse sections showed that the gland secretory epithelium consists of a sponge-like network of slender epithelial cell processes with numerous bridges and interconnections that form lacunae containing secretion. This secretory epithelium is supported by a basement membrane containing elastic fibers. The entire epithelial structure of the venom-secreting cells is reinforced by a dense network of F-actin intermediate filaments, as shown by staining with phalloidin. Neural elements (axons and acetylcholinesterase activity) are also associated with the venom gland. Transmission electron microscopy of the epithelium revealed an ultrastructure typical of secretory cells, including abundant rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, an extensive Golgi apparatus, and numerous mitochondria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Exocrine Glands / anatomy & histology*
  • Exocrine Glands / metabolism
  • Exocrine Glands / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Spider Venoms / metabolism*
  • Spiders / anatomy & histology*
  • Spiders / metabolism
  • Spiders / ultrastructure


  • Spider Venoms