Comparison of crotoxin isoforms reveals that stability of the complex plays a major role in its pharmacological action

Faure, G and Harvey, A L and Thomson, E and Saliou, B and Radvanyi, F and Bon, C (1993) Comparison of crotoxin isoforms reveals that stability of the complex plays a major role in its pharmacological action. European Journal of Biochemistry, 214 (2). pp. 491-496. ISSN 0014-2956 (

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Crotoxin from the venom of the South American rattlesnake Crotalus durissus terrificus is a potent neurotoxin consisting of a weakly toxic phospholipase-A2 subunit (CB) and a non-enzymic, non-toxic subunit (CA). Crotoxin complex (CACB) dissociates upon interaction with membranes: CB binds while CA does not. Moreover, CA enhances the toxicity of CB by preventing its non-specific adsorption. Several crotoxin isoforms have been identified. Multiple variants of each subunit give different crotoxin complexes that can be subdivided into two classes: those of high toxicity and low enzymic activity and those of moderate toxicity and a high phospholipase-A2 activity. In this study, we demonstrate that the more-toxic isoforms block neuromuscular transmission of chick biventer cervicis preparations more efficiently than weakly toxic isoforms. The less-toxic crotoxin complexes have the same Km and Vmax as CB alone. In contrast, the more-toxic isoforms are enzymically less active than CB. These differences correlate with the stability of the complexes: less-toxic isoforms are less stable (Kd = 25 nM) and dissociate rapidly (half-life about 1 min), whereas the more-toxic isoforms are more stable (Kd = 4.5 nM) and dissociate more slowly (half-life 10-20 min). The rate of interaction of crotoxin complexes with vesicles of negatively charged phospholipids paralleled the rate of dissociation of the complexes in the absence of vesicles. The differences of pharmacological and biochemical properties of crotoxin isoforms indicate that the stability of crotoxin complexes plays a major role in the synergistic action of crotoxin subunits: a stronger association between the two crotoxin subunits would account for their slower dissociation rate, a weaker enzymic activity, a slower interaction with phosphatidylglycerol vesicles, a faster blockade of neuromuscular transmission and a higher lethal potency.