Identifying Convergence of ShK Toxins in Sea Anemones

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Florida Southern College
Toxins and other naturally derived products synthesized for predatory defense or prey capture can often be harmful to humans, but in some cases they may also present pharmaceutical potential. One toxin in particular, commonly referred to as ShK, has been isolated from the sea anemone Stichodactyla helianthus and exhibits potential to treat autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. The currently existing ShK toxin as well as its analogs are not ideal in their target and treatment, exhibiting some flaws regarding effective transport and binding to Kv1.3 channels. Toxins containing this domain are ubiquitous across sea anemones as they target potassium ion channels, potentially being used to immobilize prey or deter predators. We hypothesized that there may be variations of the toxin that are naturally produced by other species. Our bioinformatic approach has found 586 ShK toxin candidates in 23 sea anemone species. Our results are the first step towards identifying ShK proteins that could combat various types of autoimmune or even neurological diseases.
Honors Thesis Spring 2020
Sea anemones, Toxins