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Monash Venom Research Laboratory

Group Head

Dr Wayne Hodgson

BSc(Hons) PhD

Tel: +61 3 9905 4861 / 9905 4866 / 9905 5756
Fax: +61 3 9905 5851

Specific Interests

Australia is home to some of the most venomous creatures in the world. To date little, if any, work has been undertaken on many of these venoms. Our major interest is the pharmacological examination of Australasian animal venoms with a particular emphasis on identification and isolation of novel toxins. In the past, many toxins have been adapted or have served as lead structures for therapeutic, diagnostic and insecticidal agents. In addition, we are also examining the efficacy of antivenoms against the pharmacological activity of these venoms/toxins. Animal venoms being examined include those from Australasian spiders, snakes and fish.

Current projects

Australian spider venoms We are interested in the sex-differences between venoms of male and female white-tailed spiders (Lampona cylindrata), wolf spiders (Lycosa godefforyi) and Eastern mouse spiders (Missulena bradleyi). Spider venoms contain toxins targeted against the insect nervous system but many of these toxins also have marked effects on humans. The development of tissue necrosis following bites by common Australian spiders (ie. necrotic arachnidism) is a controversial clinical area. The white-tailed spider and wolf spider have been suggested as potential candidates for this phenomenon for which there is no successful treatment. The primary reason for this is that the venom components responsible for this activity are unknown. We are examining venom and isolated toxins from these spiders for pharmacological activity.

The Eastern mouse spider is an aggressive spider with wide distribution. However, little is known about the pharmacological activity of this venom. We have identified a potent neurotoxin in the venom of the male spider which has similar action to the d-atracotoxins isolated from the venoms of Australian funnel-web spiders. Current work is aimed at isolating and purifying this toxin.

Australian fish venoms The stonefish (spp. Synanceia) is reported to be the world’s most venomous fish. Stonefish envenomation, due to the victim standing on the venomous spines, is followed by intense pain and extreme swelling. Systemic effects include bradycardia, arrhythmia and cardiovascular collapse. We are maintaining live specimens of S. trachynis from Northern Queensland and are ‘milking’ venom from the dorsal spines.

Net fishermen are frequently envenomated by soldierfish (Gymnapistes marmoratus) which are widely distributed around the Australian coast. There has previously been no pharmacological analysis of the venom from this fish. We are particularly interested in isolating the toxin(s) from both venoms responsible for the profound cardiovascular effects that we have observed in vivo and in vitro.

Australasian snake venoms. We are examining the in vitro neurotoxicity of a range of Australasian snake venoms including those of the inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotusO. scutellatus canni), Stephen’s banded snake (Hoplocephalus stephensi), common death adder (Acanthophis antarcticus), desert death adder (A. pyrrhus) and northern death adder (A. praelongus). We are also examining the efficacy of a range of CSL monovalent antivenoms against this toxicity.

Members of Laboratory

Ms Sharmaine Ramasamy (PhD Student)
Mr Janith Wickramaratna (PhD Student)
Ms Natalie Lumsden (PhD Student)
Mr Sanjaya Kuruppu (PhD Student)

Collaborations

Dr Eddie Rowan (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland. Dr Graham Nicholson (University of Technology, Sydney). Dr Mibel Aguilar (Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Monash University). Dr Pierre Escoubas (Nice, France). Dr Ian Smith (Baker Institute). Dr Geoff Isbister (Royal Darwin Hospital, N.T.). Bryan Grieg Fry (Centre for Drug Design & Development, University of Queensland

Recent selected publications

1. Rash, L.D., King, R.G. & Hodgson WC. Sex differences in the pharmacological activity of venom from the white-tailed spider (Lampona cylindrata). Toxicon, 38, in press.
2. Church, J.E. & Hodgson WC Dose-dependent cardiovascular and neuromuscular effects of stonefish (Synanceja trachynis) venom. Toxicon, 38, 391-407, 2000.
3. Crachi, M.T., Hammer, L.W. & Hodgson WC The effects of antivenom on the in vitro neurotoxicity of venoms from the taipans, Oxyuranus scutellatus, Oxyuranus microlepidotus and Oxyuranus scutellatus canni. Toxicon, 37, 1771-1778, 1999..
4. Crachi, M.T., Hammer, L.W. & Hodgson WC A pharmacological examination of venom from the Papuan taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus canni). Toxicon, 37, 1721-1734, 1999.
5. Bell, K.L., Kemp, B.K., McPherson, G.A. & Hodgson WC The smooth muscle relaxant effects of venom from the inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus). Toxicon, 37, 229-231, 1999.
6. Hopkins, B.J. & Hodgson WC Cardiovascular studies on venom from the soldierfish (Gymnapistes marmoratus). Toxicon, 36, 973-983, 1998.
7. Hopkins, B.J. & Hodgson WC Enzyme and biochemical studies of stonefish (Synanceja trachynis) and soldierfish (Gymnapistes marmoratus) venoms. Toxicon, 36, 791-793, 1998.
8. Rash, L.D., King, R.G. & Hodgson WC Evidence that histamine is the principal pharmacological component of venom from an Australian wolf spider (Lycosa godeffroyi). Toxicon, 36, 367-375, 1998.
9. Bell, K.L., Sutherland, S.K. & Hodgson WC Some pharmacological studies of venom from the inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus). Toxicon, 36, 63-74, 1998.