Myotoxic components of snake venoms: their biochemical and biological activities

Pharmacol Ther. 1990;48(2):223-36. doi: 10.1016/0163-7258(90)90081-c.


Necrosis of skeletal muscle is produced by two types of snake venom components: single chain peptides consisting of 42-44 amino acid residues and phospholipases A2 representing either single chain proteins or existing as complexes of several enzyme subunits or combined with other nonenzymatic proteins. Vacuolation, lysis and necrosis of skeletal muscle cells are the major pathological effects of these myotoxins. Although the exact mode of action of these toxins is not clear, interactions with the plasma membrane leading to permeability changes for ions and to their complete destruction is evident. The high specificities of some venom phospholipases A2 for skeletal muscle cells suggest a specific binding to certain membrane receptors; however, an enzymatic action on membranes may also be involved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Muscular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Muscular Diseases / pathology
  • Necrosis / chemically induced
  • Necrosis / pathology
  • Snake Venoms / analysis
  • Snake Venoms / toxicity*


  • Snake Venoms