Bioinformatic and Functional Analysis of Venom from the Jewel Wasp Ampulex compressa

Ryan Arvidson, Maayan Kaiser, SongQin Pan, Frederic Libersat, Michael E Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The parasitoid jewel wasp Ampulex compressa exploits its host, the American cockroach Periplaneta americana, as a food source for its young. The host is subdued through direct envenomation into the central nervous system, inducing a days-long ?zombie-like state? referred to as hypokinesia. Hypokinesia is a specific, venom-induced behavioral state characterized by suppression of the escape response and reduced spontaneous walking, leaving other motor functions intact. This condition is reversible, provided that egg deposition is prevented. To facilitate elucidation of biochemical mechanisms underlying venom-induced hypokinesia, we developed a comprehensive inventory of the venom by combining: 1) next-generation RNA sequencing, transcriptomic analysis of venom gland components, and 2) proteomics of venom apparatus extracts and whole milked venom via mass spectroscopy-based Multi-Dimensional Protein Identification Technology. These analyses yielded a total of 201 proteins and peptides in the venom, 105 with Pfam domains, 146 similar to other proteins in the NCBI-nr or Uniprot databases, and 45 novel proteins absent in global databases. A. compressa venom proteins include members of the M13 family of proteases (11), phospholipase A2 isoforms (10), along with hyaluronidase, chitinase, icarapin, venom acid phosphatase, serpins, and signaling peptides including tachykinin, corazonin, and myosuppressin. Differential expression analysis and proteomics of the two major tissues of the venom apparatus - venom sac and venom gland -identified tissue-specific expression of key venom components. We show that A. compressa venom tachykinins (AcVTK) are able to activate the cockroach brain tachykinin receptor with high affinity (EC50 ~1 nM) in vitro. Injection of synthetic AcVTK into the subesophageal ganglion, an established target of the wasp venom, increases escape response threshold for one hour post-treatment. These results indicate that tachykinin may participate in the behavioral changes resulting from envenomation of cockroach cerebral ganglia. We isolated and characterized two novel, paralogous venom sac peptides found in milked venom. These peptides are alpha-helical, amphipathic, and constitute a new family of venom toxins termed ampulexins. Injection of the most abundant venom peptide, ampulexin-1, into the subesophageal ganglion of cockroaches resulted in a short-term increase in escape threshold. Our findings show that the venom of A. compressa is a rich collection of both well-known and novel, pharmacologically diverse compounds. Our study provides new and comprehensive information on A. compressa venom contents that inform hypotheses regarding its mode of action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819.1-819.1
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - 2016


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