Toxic peptides and genes encoding toxin gamma of the Brazilian scorpions Tityus bahiensis and Tityus stigmurus.
Seven toxic peptides from the venom of Tityus bahiensis and Tityus stigmurus was isolated and sequenced, five of them to completion. The most abundant peptide from each of these two species of scorpion was 95% identical with that of toxin gamma from the venom of Tityus serrulatus. They were consequently named gamma-b and gamma-st respectively. The genes encoding these new gamma-like peptides were cloned and sequenced by utilizing oligonucleotides synthesized according to known cDNA sequences of toxin gamma, and amplified by PCR on templates of DNA purified from both T. bahiensis and T. stigmurus. They contain an intron of approx. 470 bp. Possible mechanisms of processing and expressing these peptides are discussed, in view of the fact that glycine is the first residue of the N-terminal sequence of T. stigmurus, whereas lysine is the residue at position 1 of toxin gamma from T. serrulatus and T. bahiensis. In addition, chemical characterization of the less abundant toxic peptides showed the presence of at least four distinct families of peptides in all three species of the genus Tityus studied. There is a large degree of similarity among peptides from different venoms of the same family. By using specific horse and rabbit antisera, the venoms of T. bahiensis, T. serrulatus and T. stigmurus were compared. They showed an extended degree of cross-reactivity. Thus these three species of scorpion have similar toxic components, the genes of which are similarly organized, processed and expressed.