Viper Venom Botox: The Molecular Origin and Evolution of the Waglerin Peptides Used in Anti-Wrinkle Skin Cream

J Mol Evol. 2017 Jan;84(1):8-11. doi: 10.1007/s00239-016-9764-6. Epub 2016 Nov 18.


The molecular origin of waglerin peptides has remained enigmatic despite their industrial application in skin cream products to paralyse facial muscles and thus reduce the incidence of wrinkles. Here we show that these neurotoxic peptides are the result of de novo evolution within the prepro region of the C-type natriuretic peptide gene in Tropidolaemus venoms, at a site distinct from the domain encoding for the natriuretic peptide. It is the same region that yielded the azemiopsin peptides from Azemiops feae, indicative of a close relationship of this toxin gene between these two genera. The precursor region for the molecular evolution is a biodiversity hotspot that has yielded other novel bioactive peptides with novel activities. We detail the diversity of components in this and other species in order to explore what characteristics enable it to be such a biodiscovery treasure trove. The unusual function of Tropidolaemus venoms may have been selected for due to evolutionary pressures brought about by a high likelihood of prey escape.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence / genetics
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Crotalid Venoms / genetics*
  • Crotalid Venoms / therapeutic use
  • Crotalid Venoms / toxicity
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Phylogeny
  • Skin Cream
  • Viper Venoms / therapeutic use*
  • Viper Venoms / toxicity


  • Crotalid Venoms
  • Peptides
  • Viper Venoms
  • waglerin