Novel sequences encoding venom C-type lectins are conserved in phylogenetically and geographically distinct Echis and Bitis viper species

R. A. Harrison*, J. Oliver, S. S. Hasson, K. Bharati, R. D.G. Theakston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Envenoming by Echis saw scaled vipers and Bitis arietans puff adders is the leading cause of death and morbidity in Africa due to snake bite. Despite their medical importance, the composition and constituent functionality of venoms from these vipers remains poorly understood. Here, we report the cloning of cDNA sequences encoding seven clusters or isoforms of the haemostasis-disruptive C-type lectin (CTL) proteins from the venom glands of Echis ocellatus, E. pyramidum leakeyi, E. carinatus sochureki and B. arietans. All these CTL sequences encoded the cysteine scaffold that defines the carbohydrate-recognition domain of mammalian CTLs. All but one of the Echis and Bitis CTL sequences showed greater sequence similarity to the β than α CTL subunits in venoms of related Asian and American vipers. Four of the new CTL clusters showed marked inter-cluster sequence conservation across all four viper species which were significantly different from that of previously published viper CTLs. The other three Echis and Bitis CTL clusters showed varying degrees of sequence similarity to published viper venom CTLs. Because viper venom CTLs exhibit a high degree of sequence similarity and yet exert profoundly different effects on the mammalian haemostatic system, no attempt was made to assign functionality to the new Echis and Bitis CTLs on the basis of sequence alone. The extraordinary level of inter-specific and inter-generic sequence conservation exhibited by the Echis and Bitis CTLs leads us to speculate that antibodies to representative molecules should neutralise the biological function of this important group of venom toxins in vipers that are distributed throughout Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-102
Number of pages8
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Bitis arietans
  • C-type lectins
  • Echis carinatus sochureki
  • Echis ocellatus
  • Echis pyramidum leakeyi
  • Sequence conservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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