Fossilized venom: the unusually conserved venom profiles of Heloderma species (beaded lizards and gila monsters)

Toxins (Basel). 2014 Dec 22;6(12):3582-95. doi: 10.3390/toxins6123582.


Research into snake venoms has revealed extensive variation at all taxonomic levels. Lizard venoms, however, have received scant research attention in general, and no studies of intraclade variation in lizard venom composition have been attempted to date. Despite their iconic status and proven usefulness in drug design and discovery, highly venomous helodermatid lizards (gila monsters and beaded lizards) have remained neglected by toxinological research. Proteomic comparisons of venoms of three helodermatid lizards in this study has unravelled an unusual similarity in venom-composition, despite the long evolutionary time (~30 million years) separating H. suspectum from the other two species included in this study (H. exasperatum and H. horridum). Moreover, several genes encoding the major helodermatid toxins appeared to be extremely well-conserved under the influence of negative selection (but with these results regarded as preliminary due to the scarcity of available sequences). While the feeding ecologies of all species of helodermatid lizard are broadly similar, there are significant morphological differences between species, which impact upon relative niche occupation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Lizards / classification*
  • Lizards / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Proteomics
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Venoms / chemistry*
  • Venoms / genetics


  • Venoms