Individual variability of venom from the European adder (Vipera berus berus) from one locality in Eastern Hungary

Tamás Malina, László Krecsák, Alexander Westerström, Gábor Szemán-Nagy, Gyöngyi Gyémánt, Márta M-Hamvas, Edward G. Rowan, Alan L. Harvey, David A. Warrell, Balázs Pál, Zoltán Rusznák, Gábor Vasas

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We have revealed intra-population variability among venom samples from several individual European adders (Vipera berus berus) within a defined population in Eastern Hungary. Individual differences in venom pattern were noticed, both gender-specific and age-related, by one-dimensional electrophoresis. Gelatin zymography demonstrated that these individual venoms have different degradation profiles indicating varying protease activity in the specimens from adders of different ages and genders. Some specimens shared a conserved region of substrate degradation, while others had lower or extremely low protease activity. Phospholipase A2 activity of venoms was similar but not identical. Interspecimen diversity of the venom phospholipase A2-spectra (based on the components' molecular masses) was detected by MALDI-TOF MS. The lethal toxicity of venoms (LD50) also showed differences among individual snakes. Extracted venom samples had varying neuromuscular paralysing effect on chick biventer cervicis nerve-muscle preparations. The paralysing effect of venom was lost when calcium in the physiological salt solution was replaced by strontium; indicating that the block of twitch responses to nerve stimulation is associated with the activity of a phospholipase-dependent neurotoxin. In contrast to the studied V. b. berus venoms from different geographical regions so far, this is the first V. b. berus population discovered to have predominantly neurotoxic neuromuscular activity. The relevance of varying venom yields is also discussed. This study demonstrates that individual venom variation among V. b. berus living in particular area of Eastern Hungary might contribute to a wider range of clinical manifestations of V. b. berus envenoming than elsewhere in Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-70
Number of pages12
Early online date9 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • intra-species venom variation
  • neurotoxic
  • phospholipase A(2)
  • protease
  • vipera berus berus

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