The bite of the Texas coral snake, although not fatal, causes excruciating and long-lasting pain. The toxin involved has now been characterized. The purified active component (MitTx) results from an unusual combination of two housekeeping enzymes, the dimerization of which produces a potent and selective activator of the acid-sensing ion channel ASIC1. Activation of ASIC1 recruits primary afferent nociceptors that detect thermal and inflammatory pain. The identification of MitTx, and the unexpected involvement of ASIC1 channels in nociception, open new routes for the study of these ion channels in particular, and pain research in general.
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