From plants to fungi to animals, a frequent occurrence in evolution is the development of toxins used by one organism to subdue, deter or kill another. And as a product of evolution, these toxins are often highly specific against particular molecular targets. In venoms, toxins have a primarily ecological role: to subdue, deter or kill predators, prey or opponents alike. So, their venom toxins have evolved high specificity towards receptors within their target species, often ones tied to critical biological functions. This biological significance makes them useful tools for research and pharmaceutical design and by prospecting for more peptides found within nature, more highly effective research tools will be at our disposal.
However, historically, studies into venom characterisation have been limited to animals of medical significance. A case in point being spiders: a highly diverse taxon of venomous invertebrates with equally diverse venom biochemistry. Although momentum has been gained in recent years in characterising venoms of non-medically significant spiders, there is still much work to be done to fully characterise the estimated >10,000,000 unique spider venom peptides, including characterising venoms of previously uncharacterised species. As part of this ongoing investigation, we are looking into the pharmacological characterisation of the venoms of Australian spiders with previously uncharacterised venoms, the compounds responsible for eliciting these pharmacologies, and determining which may be potential biotechnological leads.