Postsynaptic effects of crotoxin and of its isolated subunits

Eur J Biochem. 1979 Sep;99(3):471-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1432-1033.1979.tb13278.x.


Crotoxin is a potent neurotoxin from the venom of Crotalus durissus terrificus. It is composed of two subunits: a basic phospholipase A2 with low toxicity (component B) and an acidic protein seemingly devoid of intrinsic biological activity (component A). Crotoxin and its isolated phospholipase subunit block the depolarisation caused by cholinergic agonists on the isolated electroplaque from Electrophorus electricus. The other component, which is inactive when applied alone, enhances the pharmacological activity of the phospholipase when the two components are used together. Crotoxin also blocks the increase of 22Na+ efflux caused by carbamylcholine from excitable microsacs prepared from Torpedo marmorata electric organ. Crotoxin therefore acts postsynaptically, but does not interfere with the binding of alpha-toxin from Naja nigricollis to the nicotinic cholinergic receptor site. Instead, like local anesthetics, it stabilizes a desensitized form of the acetylcholine receptor characterized by its high affinity for agonists. The phospholipase component B binds in a non-saturable manner to receptor-rich membranes. In contrast, component A does not bind to acetylcholine receptor-rich membranes, but completely prevents the non-saturable binding of component B. When the two components are applied together, a saturable binding of the latter is observed with the acetylcholine receptor-rich membranes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crotalid Venoms / pharmacology*
  • Crotoxin / pharmacology*
  • Eels
  • Electric Organ / drug effects*
  • Electric Organ / physiology
  • Electrophorus
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / drug effects


  • Crotalid Venoms
  • Receptors, Cholinergic
  • Crotoxin