The venom of the thick-tailed scorpion protect it from fungal parasites by containing antifungal, antimicrobial proteins that work synergistically when applied to its own body.

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Fungal infections represent major threats to agriculture. In fact, pathogenic fungi are responsible for 35% of all crop loss worldwide. Developing new fungicides is of paramount importance. Tityus discrepans scorpions are extremely susceptible to fungal infections because of their habitat. In order to cope, they spray themselves with their own venom. The complex mixture contains numerous compounds with antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Some function by interfering with fungal cell wall development and others by altering membrane permeability. The synergistic effect of all of the antifungal proteins acting in concert makes the venom a potent fungicide.

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“Seven toxins (F1-F7) were purified from Tityus discrepans scorpion venom…The compounds were fungitoxic on Macrophomina phaseolina…It is not known if F1 is a small peptide or some other kind of organic molecule. Compounds F2-F7 were peptides. The most potent was F7…The peptides affect M. phaseolina viability by three mechanisms: decreasing esterase activity, altering Na+ membrane permeability, and altering wall sterol biosynthesis. It seems that interfering with sterol synthesis is an important mechanism behind the effect of the fungicideal toxins. However, the antifungal effects at short times are indicative of a direct esterase inhibition, which, with the increased membrane leakiness to Naþ, makes the fungus inviable…Phytopathogenic fungi cause 35% of worldwide crop loss. Macrophomina phaseolina is a globally distributed Ascomycote able to infect a wide range of crops…It has become resistant to many chemical fungicides in current use…species, such as Tityusdiscrepans, spray their venom on their bodies to clean it from lichens, fungi, and bacteria…Scorpion venom compounds could be useful as biodegradable fungicides.” (Joya et al. 2011:6327)

M. phaseolina underwent gross structural changes after exposure to F1, F2, F5, and F7. These toxins induced chitin increase along the hyphae…Fungi under the action of F2 and F7 showed a considerable enhancement of septum thickness. Increments in chitin may be due to activation of chitin synthases…M. phaseolina exposure to F3, F4, F5, and F6 resulted in a decrease of the intracellular Na…Shunting bacterial and fungal membrane permeability is an efficient way to kill prokaryonts…” (Joya et al. 2011:6334)

“Interfering with sterol synthesis is an important mechanism behind the effect of the antifungal T. discrepans venom components described here…An outstanding feature of the toxins isolated in this work is that they seem to attack simultaneously two or more targets fundamental for M. phaseolina survival.” (Joya et al. 2011:6335)

Journal article
Scorpion Toxins Modify Phytopathogenic Fungus Physiology. A Possible Source of New FungicidesJ. Agric. Food Chem.April 21, 2011
Galax Joya, Gina D’Suze, Víctor Salazar, Arnaldo Rosales, Carlos Sevcik, Gonzalo Visbal, André T. S. Ferreira, Jonas Perales

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Eastern Hercules BeetleTityusSpecies

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