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INDIAN COBRA GENOME MAPPED

Written by Talent KAS

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Mapping the genome of the Indian cobra (Naja naja), researchers have identified specific genes that encode different venom toxins in multiple snake tissues.

Indian Cobra Genome Mapping

  • Using a combination of sophisticated gene-sequencing techniques, an international research team, including Indian scientists from the SciGenom Research Foundation in Bangalore and SciGenom Labs in Kochi, India, predicted the presence of 23,248 protein-coding genes in 14 different tissues of the Indian cobra.
  • They identified 139 genes, which belong to 33 toxin gene families. Of these, 19 toxin genes are expressed exclusively in the venom glands.
  • Comparing the cobra genome with that of the prairie rattlesnake, they narrowed their search to 15 toxin gene families that were unique to the cobra.
  • According to researchers, it is likely that these genes encode proteins that form the core toxic components of the venom.
  • The toxin-packed venom disrupts the activity of the heart, paralyses muscle, and can trigger nausea, blurred vision and bleeding.
  • This information of genes can be used to rapidly synthesise and identify toxin-neutralising antibodies for the generation of synthetic antivenoms.

Significance

  • Every year, approximately five million people worldwide are bitten by venomous snakes resulting in about 400,000 amputations and more than 100,000 deaths.
  • Each year, about 46,000 people die and 140,000 people are disabled in India from snakebites by the ‘Big 4’ — the Indian cobra, the common krait, Russell’s viper, and the saw-scaled viper.
  • Knowing the sequence of genes could aid in understanding the chemical constituents of the venom and contribute to development of new anti-venom therapies, which have remained practically unchanged for over a century.
  • Besides shedding light on the cobra toxin genes, this study yields a comprehensive data of the venom proteins that might be used to design drugs for treating high blood pressure, pain and other disorders.

About Indian Cobra

  • The Indian cobra (Naja naja) is a highly venomous snake species of the genus Naja of the family Elapidae found in the Indian subcontinent.
  • They are found in several countries including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, southern Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and possibly in the extreme eastern Afghanistan in the Kabul River Valley.​
  • The species is also known as the spectacled cobra, Asian cobra or Binocellate cobra, due to its characteristic markings.
  • Both the generic name and the specific epithet of the Indian cobra, naja, derive from the Latinisation of “nāgá” the Sanskrit word meaning cobra.

[Source: The Hindu, natureasia.com]

 

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