As well-known medicinal materials in traditional Chinese medicine, scorpions, commonly called as Quanxie () in Chinese, have been widely used to treat several diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, apoplexy, epilepsy and chronic pain for more than a thousand years. Not only in the ancient times, the scorpions have also been recorded nowadays in the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China since 1963.
This study aims to explore the differences in composition of the venom of scorpions from different regions by using the method of transcriptomics and proteomics.
Whole de novo transcriptomes, proteomics and their bioinformatic analyses were performed on samples of the scorpion Mesobuthus martensii and their venoms from four different provinces with clear geographical boundaries, including Hebei, Henan, Shandong and Shanxi.
The four captured samples had the same morphology, and the conserved CO-1 sequence matched that of M. martensii. A total of 141,003 of 174,653 transcripts were identified as unigenes, of which we successfully annotated 51,627 (36.61%), 21,970 (15.58%), 7,168 (5.08%), and 45,263 (32.10%) unigenes with the NR, GO, KEGG and SWISSPROT databases, respectively, while a total of 427 proteins were collected from the protein extracted from venoms. Both GO and KEGG annotations exhibited only slight differences among the four samples while the expression level of gene and protein was quite different. A total of 249 toxin-related unigenes were successfully screened, including 41 serine proteases and serine protease inhibitors, 39 potassium channel toxins, 38 phospholipases, 16 host defense peptides, 9 metalloproteases, and 50 other toxins. Although the toxin species were similar among the four samples, the gene expression of each toxin varied considerably, for example, the scorpion from HB province has the most abundant expression quality in sequences c48391_g1, c55239_g1 and c447749_g1 while the lowest expressions of c51178_g1, c62033_g3 and c63754_g2.
The regional differences in the transcriptomes and proteomes of M. martensii are mainly from expression levels e.g. toxins rather than expression species, of which the method can be further extended to evaluate the qualities of traditional Chinese medicines obtained from different regions.
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