Comparing morphological and secretory aspects of cephalic glands among the New World coral snakes brings novel insights on their biological roles
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Oral and other cephalic glands have been surveyed by several studies with distinct purposes. Despite the wide diversity and medical relevance of the New World coral snakes, studies focusing on understanding the biological roles of the glands within this group are still scarce. Specifically, the venom glands of some coral snakes were previously investigated but all other cephalic glands remain uncharacterized. In this sense, performing morphological and molecular analysis of these glands may help better understand their biological role. Here, we studied the morphology of the venom, infralabial, rictal, and harderian glands of thirteen species of Micrurus and Micruroides euryxanthus. We also performed a molecular characterization of these glands from selected species of Micrurus using transcriptomic and proteomic approaches. We described substantial morphological variation in the cephalic glands of New World coral snakes and structural evidence for protein-secreting cells in the inferior rictal glands. Our molecular analysis revealed that the venom glands, as expected, are majorly devoted to toxin production, however, the infralabial and inferior rictal glands also expressed some toxin genes at low to medium levels, despite the marked morphological differences. On the other hand, the harderian glands were dominated by the expression of lipocalins, but do not produce toxins. Our integrative analysis, including the prediction of biological processes and pathways, helped decipher some important traits of cephalic glands and better understand their biology.
Oliveira L, Nachtigall PG, Viala VL, Campos PF, Costa-Neves A, Zaher H, et al. Comparing morphological and secretory aspects of cephalic glands among the New World coral snakes brings novel insights on their biological roles. Toxicon. 2023 Oct; 234:107285. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2023.107285.
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