First Genetic Sequencing of Brazilian Pit Viper Is Completed; Analysis Suggests Origin of Genes Responsible for Toxins in Its Venom

A group led by researchers at Brazil’s Butantan Institute and funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) has completed the first sequencing of a Brazilian snake’s genome. The study is reported in an article published online on May 18, 2021 in PNAS. It suggests that the nine genes that encode toxins produced by the jararaca pit viper Bothrops jararaca probably originated in genes that had different functions in the ancestral species. The PNAS article is titled” Tracking the Recruitment and Evolution of Snake Toxins Using the Evolutionary Context Provided by the Bothrops jararaca Genome.” “In sequencing the snake’s genome, we identified markers that enabled us to compare toxin genes with genes in the same position in the genomes of other animals, such as snakes without venom, lizards, and amphibians. We found 9 of the 12 toxin genes in the jararaca to be highly similar to those occupying the same position in the DNA of these other species. We concluded that most of the toxin genes probably arose from elements that already existed in the same part of the genome of the ancestor common to all these animals,” said Inácio Junqueira de Azevedo, PhD, a researcher at Butantan Institute and senior author of the PNAS article.
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