University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Evolution and Development Seminar Series > Adaptive evolution of voltage-gated sodium channels: stories from electric fish, scorpions and mice

Adaptive evolution of voltage-gated sodium channels: stories from electric fish, scorpions and mice

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Voltage-gated sodium channels generate action potentials in the nervous system. We have studied the evolution of these channels in early metazoans, their history of gene duplication in vertebrates, and their adaptations in various vertebrates. I will discuss two examples of adaptions of sodium channels. The first describes the role of sodium channel trafficking in the membrane of cells of the electric organ in weakly electric fish in the service of energy conservation. A second case study will show the role of an amino acid substitution in a sodium channel found in mammalian pain receptors that allows a predatory mouse from the Sonoran desert of the American Southwest to feel no pain from the sting of scorpions, its main prey. Indeed, in a single evolutionary stroke, this channel now has the capacity to be blocked rather than activated by venom peptides thus turning the tables on the scorpion and converting its venom from a pain-inducing compound into a natural analgesic.

This talk is part of the Evolution and Development Seminar Series series.

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