Chemical properties of the venom of octopus species of the Southern Ocean

Studying the molecular biology of organisms is essential for the development of conservation strategies regarding species and the ecosystem itself. However, only understanding how different organisms interact among each other might be insufficient and thus, focusing on the species molecular biology may provide crucial information.

The venom of the octopus, present on the saliva, is one of the tools that this organism uses to interact with the ecosystem. This venom is produced on the salivary glands (Fig. 1) and is composed by cephalotoxins (Ctx), a combination of proteins with the capacity to inhibit blood coagulation, to paralyze and partially digest externally prey. Among octopus species, the differences registered on venom’s chemical composition and venom’s apparatus suggest that there is an evolutive mechanism strongly dependent on the venom’s importance for the feeding ecology of the species (e.g. prey preference, preying strategies, etc.).

Location of the salivary glands responsible for producing the toxic saliva of the octopus.

Generally, the venom’s enzymes present an optimal activity at temperatures surrounding 30 °C, dropping rapidly at temperatures below 10-20 °C. Therefore, studying the venom of Antarctic octopus species, where the water temperature is close to 0°C, is a unique opportunity to understand how the venom evolved adapting to the extreme environmental conditions and its importance to the ecology of the species.

Besides evolutionary and ecological studies, molecular biology research may provide crucial insights regarding chemical properties of certain compounds that may have potentially valuable applications on areas, such as Pharmacology.


Source: Undheim, E. A. B., Georgieva, D. N., Thoen, H. H., Norman, J. A., Mork, J., Betzel, C., & Fry, B. G. (2010). Venom on ice: First insights into Antarctic octopus venoms. Toxicon, 56, 897–913.

Author: Ricardo Matias


Leave a Reply