Snake venomics and antivenomics of Crotalus durissus subspecies from Brazil: assessment of geographic variation and its implication on snakebite management

J Proteomics. 2010 Aug 5;73(9):1758-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2010.06.001. Epub 2010 Jun 11.


We report the comparative proteomic and antivenomic characterization of the venoms of subspecies cascavella and collilineatus of the Brazilian tropical rattlesnake Crotalus durissus. The venom proteomes of C. d. collilineatus and C. d. cascavella comprise proteins in the range of 4-115 kDa belonging to 9 and 8 toxin families, respectively. Collilineatus and cascavella venoms contain 20-25 main toxins belonging to the following protein families: disintegrin, PLA(2), serine proteinase, cysteine-rich secretory protein (CRISP), vascular endothelial growth factor-like (VEGF), L-amino acid oxidase, C-type lectin-like, and snake venom metalloproteinase (SVMP). As judged by reverse-phase HPLC and mass spectrometry, cascavella and collilineatus share about 90% of their venom proteome. However, the relative occurrence of the toxin families departs among the two C. durissus subspecies venoms. The most notable difference is the presence of the myotoxin crotamine in some C. d. collilineatus specimens (averaging 20.8% of the total proteins of pooled venom), which is absent in the venom of C. d. cascavella. On the other hand, the neurotoxic PLA(2) crotoxin represents the most abundant protein in both C. durissus venoms, comprising 67.4% of the toxin proteome in C. d. collilineatus and 72.5% in C. d. cascavella. Myotoxic PLA(2)s are also present in the two venoms albeit in different relative concentrations (18.1% in C. d. cascavella vs. 4.6% in C. d. collilineatus). The venom composition accounts for the clinical manifestations caused by C. durissus envenomations: systemic neurotoxicity and myalgic symptoms and coagulation disturbances, frequently accompanied by myoglobinuria and acute renal failure. The overall compositions of C. d. subspecies cascavella and collilineatus venoms closely resemble that of C. d. terrificus, supporting the view that these taxa can be considered geographical variations of the same species. Pooled venom from adult C.d. cascavella and neonate C.d. terrificus lack crotamine, whereas this skeletal muscle cell membrane depolarizing inducing myotoxin accounts for approximately 20% of the total toxins of venom pooled from C.d. collilineatus and C.d. terrificus from Southern Brazil. The possible relevance of the observed venom variability among the tropical rattlesnake subspecies was assessed by antivenomics using anti-crotalic antivenoms produced at Instituto Butantan and Instituto Vital Brazil. The results revealed that both antivenoms exhibit impaired immunoreactivity towards crotamine and display restricted ( approximately 60%) recognition of PLA(2) molecules (crotoxin and D49-myotoxins) from C. d. cascavella and C. d. terrificus venoms. This poor reactivity of the antivenoms may be due to a combination of factors: on the one hand, an inappropriate choice of the mixture of venoms for immunization and, on the other hand, the documented low immunogenicity of PLA(2) molecules. C. durissus causes most of the lethal snakebite accidents in Brazil. The implication of the geographic variation of venom composition for the treatment of bites by different C. durissus subspecies populations is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antivenins / immunology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Crotalid Venoms / chemistry*
  • Crotalid Venoms / toxicity
  • Crotalus / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Proteomics*
  • Rabbits
  • Snake Bites / physiopathology
  • Snake Bites / therapy*


  • Antivenins
  • Crotalid Venoms