The Gympie Gympie stinging tree has needle-like trichomes which inject toxins. Credit: Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland
Original Published Date: 
Friday, September 18, 2020

Full article issued by The University of Queensland (UQ).

The painful toxins wielded by a giant Australian stinging tree are surprisingly similar to the venom found in spiders and cone snails, ARC-supported researchers from The University of Queensland have found.

The Gympie-Gympie stinging tree is one of the world’s most venomous plants and causes extreme long-lasting pain.

ARC Discovery Project grant recipients, Associate Professor Irina Vetter, Dr Thomas Durek and their teams at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, found a new family of toxins, which they’ve named ‘gympietides’ after the Gympie-Gympie stinging tree.

Although they come from a plant, the gympietides are similar to spider and cone snail toxins in the way they fold into their 3D molecular structures and target the same pain receptors.

"This arguably makes the Gympie-Gympie tree a truly 'venomous' plant," says Associate Professor Vetter.

“By understanding how this toxin works, we hope to provide better treatment to those who have been stung by the plant, to ease or eliminate the pain.”

Photo credit: 

The Gympie Gympie stinging tree has needle-like trichomes which inject toxins. Credit: Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland.