The Indian cobra reference genome and transcriptome enables comprehensive identification of venom toxins

Nat Genet. 2020 Jan;52(1):106-117. doi: 10.1038/s41588-019-0559-8. Epub 2020 Jan 6.


Snakebite envenoming is a serious and neglected tropical disease that kills ~100,000 people annually. High-quality, genome-enabled comprehensive characterization of toxin genes will facilitate development of effective humanized recombinant antivenom. We report a de novo near-chromosomal genome assembly of Naja naja, the Indian cobra, a highly venomous, medically important snake. Our assembly has a scaffold N50 of 223.35 Mb, with 19 scaffolds containing 95% of the genome. Of the 23,248 predicted protein-coding genes, 12,346 venom-gland-expressed genes constitute the 'venom-ome' and this included 139 genes from 33 toxin families. Among the 139 toxin genes were 19 'venom-ome-specific toxins' (VSTs) that showed venom-gland-specific expression, and these probably encode the minimal core venom effector proteins. Synthetic venom reconstituted through recombinant VST expression will aid in the rapid development of safe and effective synthetic antivenom. Additionally, our genome could serve as a reference for snake genomes, support evolutionary studies and enable venom-driven drug discovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Elapid Venoms / analysis*
  • Elapid Venoms / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genome*
  • India
  • Naja naja / genetics*
  • Sequence Homology
  • Transcriptome*


  • Elapid Venoms