Development of a rational nomenclature for naming peptide and protein toxins from sea anemones

Toxicon. 2012 Sep 15;60(4):539-50. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2012.05.020. Epub 2012 Jun 5.


Sea anemone toxins are predominantly peptide and proteins that act mainly on sodium and potassium channels, as well as in a variety of target cells causing lysis. Over recent years, the number of sea anemone peptide toxins as well as cytolytic pore-forming proteins and phospholipase A(2) sequences submitted to databases has been rapidly increasing due to the developments in DNA sequencing technology and proteomic approaches. However, the lack of a systematic nomenclature has resulted in multiple names being assigned to the same toxins, toxins from unrelated species being designated by the same name, and ambiguous name designations. Therefore, in this work we propose a systematic nomenclature in which we adopted specific criteria, based on order of discovery and phylogenetic analysis, in order to avoid redundant sea anemone toxin names. Implementation of the nomenclature proposed here not only allowed us to rename the already published 191 anemone toxins without ambiguities, but it can be used to unambiguously name newly discovered toxins whether or not they are related to previously published sea anemone sequences. In the new nomenclature each toxin name contains information about the toxin's biological activity, origin and relationship to known isoforms. Ongoing increases in the speed of DNA sequencing will raise significantly the number of sea anemone toxin sequences in the literature. This will represent a constant challenge in their clear identification and logical classification, which could be solved using the proposed nomenclature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cnidarian Venoms / chemistry*
  • Cnidarian Venoms / classification
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Peptides / classification
  • Phylogeny
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / classification
  • Sea Anemones / genetics
  • Sea Anemones / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Terminology as Topic*


  • Cnidarian Venoms
  • Peptides
  • Proteins