The Unusual Metalloprotease-Rich Venom Proteome of the Australian Elapid Snake Hoplocephalus stephensii

Tasoulis, Theo, et al. “The Unusual Metalloprotease-Rich Venom Proteome of the Australian Elapid Snake Hoplocephalus stephensii.” Toxins 14.5 (2022): 314.


The Australasian region is home to the most diverse elapid snake radiation on the planet (Hydrophiinae). Many of these snakes have evolved into unique ecomorphs compared to elapids on other continents; however, their venom compositions are poorly known. The Australian elapid Hoplocephalus stephensii (Stephen’s banded snake) is an arboreal snake with a unique morphology. Human envenoming results in venom-induced consumption coagulopathy, without neurotoxicity. Using transcriptomics and a multi-step fractionation method involving reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography, sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and bottom-up proteomics, we characterized the venom proteome of H. stephensii. 92% of the total protein component of the venom by weight was characterized, and included all dominant protein families and 4 secondary protein families. Eighteen toxins made up 76% of the venom, four previously characterized and 14 new toxins. The four dominant protein families made up 77% of the venom, including snake venom metalloprotease (SVMP; 36.7%; three identified toxins), phospholipase A2 (PLA2; 24.0%; five identified toxins), three-finger toxin (3FTx; 10.2%; two toxins) and snake venom serine protease (SVSP; 5.9%; one toxin; Hopsarin). Secondary protein families included L-amino acid oxidase (LAAO; 10.8%; one toxin), natriuretic peptide (NP; 0.8%; two toxins), cysteine-rich secretory protein (CRiSP; 1.7%; two toxins), c-type lectin (CTL; 1.1%; one toxin), and one minor protein family, nerve growth factor (NGF; 0.8%; one toxin). The venom composition of H. stephensii differs to other elapids, with a large proportion of SVMP and LAAO, and a relatively small amount of 3FTx. H. stephensii venom appeared to have less toxin diversity than other elapids, with only 18 toxins making up three-quarters of the venom.