Effect of Tityus serrulatus scorpion venom on isolated jejunum: A very useful tool to study the interaction between neurons in the enteric nervous system


      • The venom of the scorpion Tityus serrulatus induced contraction and relaxation of rat jejunum.
      • Tetrodotoxin increases the final portion of the contraction induced by the venom
      • Atropine blocks almost completely the contraction in the presence of tetrodotoxin
      • Venom can be an important tool for the study of neurotransmission in the enteric nervous system


      Scorpion envenomation is a public health problem in tropical and subtropical areas. In Brazil, Tityus serrulatus is the biggest cause of accidents with venomous animals. Tityus serrulatus venom causes symptoms related to a great activation of the autonomic system attributed to a massive release of sympathetic and parasympathetic mediators. This effect is attributed to the presence of toxins acting in Na+ and K+ ion channels, leading to an increase in cell excitability. Although gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhoea and sialorrhea, is observed in moderate to severe cases, little attention is given in clinical reports. Gastrointestinal motility is controlled by the enteric nervous system which is composed of a wide variety of interconnected neurons that are influenced by the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Thus, this work aimed to characterize the effects of Tityus serrulatus venom on sympathetic and parasympathetic neurotransmission of rat jejunum, as well as to investigate possibles effects on other neurons of the enteric nervous system.
      To this, we verify the effects of Tityus serrulatus venom on the contractility of isolated rat jejunum through organ-bath experiments. We observed that venom can induce both contraction and relaxation. The contraction was partially inhibited by atropine (1 μM) and by suramin (0.1 mM) through tetrodotoxin-resistant and sensitive mechanisms. The relaxation was completely inhibited by 3 μM propranolol and partially inhibited by 1 μM phentolamine. Suramin induced a slowing of relaxation curve. Tetrodotoxin completely inhibits the relaxation induced by Tityus serrulatus venom, but the contraction curves were only partially reduced in their initial portion. The final part of the curve was largely enhanced by Tetrodotoxin. Atropine blocks almost completely the contraction curve in the presence of Tetrodotoxin. These results indicate that Tityus serrulatus venom induces the release of both excitatory (predominantly acetylcholine) and inhibitory (mainly noradrenaline) neurotransmitters.
      The effects of Tityus serrulatus venom on organ contractility was quite complex and seem to derive from a diffuse and nonspecific release of mediators from autonomic and enteric nervous systems. Further investigation of venom action and its isolated toxins can reveal important aspects to deepen our knowledge about the enteric nervous system transmission and the interaction between excitatory and inhibitory mediators as well as the physiological role of Na+ and K+ ion channels in gut motility.


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