The Sudanese red spitting cobra, a predator analysed in Dr Fry's study. Image: Bonnerscar
Original Published Date: 
Monday, January 18, 2021

Full article issued by The University of Queensland.

Certain snakes have evolved a unique genetic trick to avoid being eaten by venomous snakes, according to University of Queensland (UQ) research supported by the ARC. 

Associate Professor Bryan Fry from UQ’s Toxin Evolution Lab said the technique worked in a manner similar to the way two sides of a magnet repel each other.

'The target of snake venom neurotoxins is a strongly negatively charged nerve receptor,' Dr Fry says. 'This has caused neurotoxins to evolve with positively charged surfaces, thereby guiding them to the neurological target to produce paralysis.'

'But some snakes have evolved to replace a negatively charged amino acid on their receptor with a positively charged one, meaning the neurotoxin is repelled. It’s an inventive genetic mutation and it’s been completely missed until now.'

The discovery was made after the establishment of UQ’s new $2 million biomolecular interaction facility, the Australian Biomolecular Interaction Facility, which was partly funded through a $1 million ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant.

Photo credit: 

The Sudanese red spitting cobra, a predator analysed in Dr Fry's study. Image: Bonnerscar.