Intact protein mass spectrometry reveals intraspecies variations in venom composition of a local population of Vipera kaznakovi in Northeastern Turkey

J Proteomics. 2019 May 15:199:31-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2019.02.004. Epub 2019 Feb 11.


We report on the variable venom composition of a population of the Caucasus viper (Vipera kaznakovi) in Northeastern Turkey. We applied a combination of venom gland transcriptomics, de-complexing bottom-up and top-down venomics. In contrast to sole bottom-up venomics approaches and gel or chromatography based venom comparison, our combined approach enables a faster and more detailed comparison of venom proteomes from multiple individuals. In total, we identified peptides and proteins from 15 toxin families, including snake venom metalloproteinases (svMP; 37.8%), phospholipases A2 (PLA2; 19.0%), snake venom serine proteinases (svSP; 11.5%), C-type lectins (CTL; 6.9%) and cysteine-rich secretory proteins (CRISP; 5.0%), in addition to several low abundant toxin families. Furthermore, we identified intraspecies variations of the venom composition of V. kaznakovi, and find these were mainly driven by the age of the animals, with lower svSP abundance detected in juveniles. On the proteoform level, several small molecular weight toxins between 5 and 8 kDa in size, as well as PLA2s, drove the differences observed between juvenile and adult individuals. This study provides novel insights into the venom variability of V. kaznakovi and highlights the utility of intact mass profiling for fast and detailed comparison of snake venom. BIOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Population level and ontogenetic venom variation (e.g. diet, habitat, sex or age) can result in a loss of antivenom efficacy against snakebites from wide ranging snake populations. The current state of the art for the analysis of snake venoms are de-complexing bottom-up proteomics approaches. While useful, these have the significant drawback of being time-consuming and following costly protocols, and consequently are often applied to pooled venom samples. To overcome these shortcomings and to enable rapid and detailed profiling of large numbers of individual venom samples, we integrated an intact protein analysis workflow into a transcriptomics-guided bottom-up approach. The application of this workflow to snake individuals of a local population of V. kaznakovi revealed intraspecies variations in venom composition, which are primarily explained by the age of the animals, and highlighted svSP abundance to be one of the molecular drivers for the compositional differences observed.

Keywords: Caucasus viper; Middle East; Population Venomics; Snake; Snake Venomics; Top-down Venomics; Toxin; Transcriptomics; Venom; Vipera kaznakovi; Viperidae.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Antivenins / chemistry
  • Biodiversity
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Metalloproteases / analysis
  • Phospholipases A2 / analysis
  • Proteomics / methods
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcriptome
  • Turkey
  • Viper Venoms / chemistry*
  • Viper Venoms / enzymology
  • Viperidae


  • Antivenins
  • Viper Venoms
  • Phospholipases A2
  • Metalloproteases