Vintage venoms: proteomic and pharmacological stability of snake venoms stored for up to eight decades

Clemence Jesupret, Kate Baumann, Timothy N W Jackson, Syed A Ali, Daryl Yang, Laura Greisman, Larissa Kern, Jessica Anne Steuten, Mahdokht Jouiaei, Nicholas R Casewell, Eivind A B Undheim, Ivan Koludarov, Jordan Debono, Dolyce H W Low, Sarah Rossi, Nadya Panagides, Kelly Lee Winter, Vera Ignjatovic, Robyn Summerhayes, Alun JonesAmanda S Nouwens, Nathan Dunstan, Wayne Clarence Hodgson, Ken Winkel, Paul Monagle, Bryan Fry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


For over a century, venom samples from wild snakes have been collected and stored around the world. However, the quality of storage conditions for vintage venoms has rarely been assessed. The goal of this study was to determine whether such historical venom samples are still biochemically and pharmacologically viable for research purposes, or if new sample efforts are needed. In total, 52 samples spanning 5 genera and 13 species with regional variants of some species (e.g., 14 different populations of Notechis scutatus) were analysed by a combined proteomic and pharmacological approach to determine protein structural stability and bioactivity. When venoms were not exposed to air during storage, the proteomic results were virtually indistinguishable from that of fresh venom and bioactivity was equivalent or only slightly reduced. By contrast, a sample of Acanthophis antarcticus venom that was exposed to air (due to a loss of integrity of the rubber stopper) suffered significant degradation as evidenced by the proteomics profile. Interestingly, the neurotoxicity of this sample was nearly the same as fresh venom, indicating that degradation may have occurred in the free N- or C-terminus chains of the proteins, rather than at the tips of loops where the functional residues are located. These results suggest that these and other vintage venom collections may be of continuing value in toxin research. This is particularly important as many snake species worldwide are declining due to habitat destruction or modification. For some venoms (such as N. scutatus from Babel Island, Flinders Island, King Island and St. Francis Island) these were the first analyses ever conducted and these vintage samples may represent the only venom ever collected from these unique island forms of tiger snakes. Such vintage venoms may therefore represent the last remaining stocks of some local populations and thus are precious resources. These venoms also have significant historical value as the Oxyuranus venoms analysed include samples from the first coastal taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) collected for antivenom production (the snake that killed the collector Kevin Budden), as well as samples from the first Oxyuranus microlepidotus specimen collected after the species rediscovery in 1976. These results demonstrate that with proper storage techniques, venom samples can retain structural and pharmacological stability. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Proteomics of non-model organisms. BIOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE:
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285 - 294
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Proteomics
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Cite this

Jesupret, C., Baumann, K., Jackson, T. N. W., Ali, S. A., Yang, D., Greisman, L., Kern, L., Steuten, J. A., Jouiaei, M., Casewell, N. R., Undheim, E. A. B., Koludarov, I., Debono, J., Low, D. H. W., Rossi, S., Panagides, N., Winter, K. L., Ignjatovic, V., Summerhayes, R., ... Fry, B. (2014). Vintage venoms: proteomic and pharmacological stability of snake venoms stored for up to eight decades. Journal of Proteomics, 105, 285 - 294.