skip to main content

Search for: All records

Award ID contains: 1655392

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. 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 »as a therapeutic and understanding the origin and chemical ecology of TTX as a poison will only improve its general benefit to humanity.« less
  2. A widespread misconception in much of psychology is that (a) as vertebrate animals evolved, “newer” brain structures were added over existing “older” brain structures, and (b) these newer, more complex structures endowed animals with newer and more complex psychological functions, behavioral flexibility, and language. This belief, although widely shared in introductory psychology textbooks, has long been discredited among neurobiologists and stands in contrast to the clear and unanimous agreement on these issues among those studying nervous-system evolution. We bring psychologists up to date on this issue by describing the more accurate model of neural evolution, and we provide examples of how this inaccurate view may have impeded progress in psychology. We urge psychologists to abandon this mistaken view of human brains.
  3. Rough-skinned newts produce tetrodotoxin or TTX, a deadly neurotoxin that is also present in some pufferfish, octopuses, crabs, starfish, flatworms, frogs, and toads. It remains a mystery why so many different creatures produce this toxin. One possibility is that TTX did not evolve in animals at all, but rather it is made by bacteria living on or in these creatures. In fact, scientists have already shown that TTX-producing bacteria supply pufferfish, octopus, and other animals with the toxin. However, it was not known where TTX in newts and other amphibians comes from. TTX kills animals by blocking specialized ion channels and shutting down the signaling between neurons, but rough-skinned newts appear insensitive to this blockage, making it likely that they have evolved defenses against the toxin. Some garter snakes that feed on these newts have also evolved to become immune to the effects of TTX. If bacteria are the source of TTX in the newts, the emergence of newt-eating snakes resistant to TTX must be putting evolutionary pressure on both the newts and the bacteria to boost their anti-snake defenses. Learning more about these complex relationships will help scientists better understand both evolution and the role of beneficial bacteria. Vaellimore »et al. have now shown that bacteria living on rough-skinned newts produce TTX. In the experiments, bacteria samples were collected from the skin of the newts and grown in the laboratory. Four different types of bacteria from the samples collected produced TTX. Next, Vaelli et al. looked at five genes that encode the channels normally affected by TTX in newts and found that all them have mutations that prevent them from being blocked by this deadly neurotoxin. This suggests that bacteria living on newts shape the evolution of genes critical to the animals’ own survival. Helpful bacteria living on and in animals have important effects on animals’ physiology, health, and disease. But understanding these complex interactions is challenging. Rough-skinned newts provide an excellent model system for studying the effects of helpful bacteria living on animals. Vaelli et al. show that a single chemical produced by bacteria can impact diverse aspects of animal biology including physiology, the evolution of their genes, and their interactions with other creatures in their environment.« less