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Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is a potent neurotoxin that was first identified in pufferfish but has since been isolated from an array of taxa that host TTX-producing bacteria. However, determining its origin, ecosystem roles, and biomedical applications has challenged researchers for decades. Recognized as a poison and for its lethal effects on humans when ingested, TTX is primarily a powerful sodium channel inhibitor that targets voltage-gated sodium channels, including six of the nine mammalian isoforms. Although lethal doses for humans range from 1.5–2.0 mg TTX (blood level 9 ng/mL), when it is administered at levels far below LD50, TTX exhibits therapeutic properties, especially to treat cancer-related pain, neuropathic pain, and visceral pain. Furthermore, TTX can potentially treat a variety of medical ailments, including heroin and cocaine withdrawal symptoms, spinal cord injuries, brain trauma, and some kinds of tumors. Here, we (i) describe the perplexing evolution and ecology of tetrodotoxin, (ii) review its mechanisms and modes of action, and (iii) offer an overview of the numerous ways it may be applied as a therapeutic. There is much to be explored in these three areas, and we offer ideas for future research that combine evolutionary biology with therapeutics. The TTX system holds great promisemore »
Climate change-induced extinctions are estimated to eliminate one in six known species by the end of the century. One major factor that will contribute to these extinctions is extreme climatic events. Here, we show the ecological impacts of recent record warm air temperatures and simultaneous peak drought conditions in California. From 2008–2016, the southern populations of a wide-ranging endemic amphibian (the California newt,
Taricha torosa) showed a 20% reduction to mean body condition and significant losses to variation in body condition linked with extreme climate deviations. However, body condition in northern populations remained relatively unaffected during this period. Range-wide population estimates of change to body condition under future climate change scenarios within the next 50 years suggest that northern populations will mirror the loss of body condition recently observed in southern populations. This change is predicated on latter 21stcentury climate deviations that resemble recent conditions in Southern California. Thus, the ecological consequences of climate change have already occurred across the warmer, drier regions of Southern California, and our results suggest that predicted climate vulnerable regions in the more mesic northern range likely will not provide climate refuge for numerous amphibian communities.