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Antimicrobial peptides in frog poisons constitute a molecular toxin delivery system against predators.

  • November 14, 2017

Animals using toxic peptides and proteins for predation or defense typically depend on specialized morphological structures, like fangs, spines, or a stinger, for effective intoxication. Here we show that amphibian poisons instead incorporate their own molecular system for toxin delivery to attacking predators. Skin-secreted peptides, generally considered part of the amphibian immune system, permeabilize oral epithelial tissue and enable fast access of cosecreted toxins to the predator’s bloodstream and organs. This absorption-enhancing system exists in at least three distantly related frog lineages and is likely to be a widespread adaptation, determining the outcome of predator–prey encounters in hundreds of species.

 

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