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Tarantula Venom and Chili Peppers Share Receptor 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the it-tastes-like-burning dept.
FiReaNGeL writes "Scientists have discovered that venom from a West Indian tarantula has been shown to cause pain by exciting the same nerve cells in mice that sense high temperatures and the hot, spicy ingredient in chili peppers. The findings demonstrate that some plants and animals have evolved the same molecular strategy to deter predators — triggering pain by activating a specific receptor on sensory nerves. The research provides new tools to understand how these pain- and heat-sensing neurons work, and to help develop drugs that ease persistent pain."
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Tarantula Venom and Chili Peppers Share Receptor

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  • Are they the same nerve cells that get excited when you hit them with a hammer?
  • This damned story has an advert with a spider at the top.
    *shudder*

    Contextual advertising or just fluke?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, 2006 @05:25AM (#16782401)
    Spider con carne... mmm...
  • Parallel evolution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Silver Sloth (770927) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @06:01AM (#16782609)
    "It is fascinating that plants and animals have evolved the same anti-predatory mechanism to generate noxious sensations," Julius said.
    c.f. the similarities between the human eye and the squid eye. Given the phase space it's not totally surprising that different organisms evolved similar solutions. Or maybe the flying spaghetti monster [wikipedia.org] intelligently designed it that way!
  • Wrong Headline! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gameforge (965493) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @06:09AM (#16782665) Journal
    Maybe I'm missing something, but should the headline "Tarantula Venom and Chili Peppers Share Receptor" not actually read "Tarantula Venom and Chili Peppers Target Same Receptor"?

    It would be truly shocking if they actually shared the same receptor... has that ever happened? A plant growing an animal cell? Just curious...

    Incidentally, the article doesn't really say if the same proteins are used by the pepper and the arachnid to provoke this receptor. Somehow I doubt it, since TFA says that just simple heat from the sun, as well as "peppery food, mustard oil and other compounds" also target it. Seems more coincidental than anything; a porcupine and a cactus would be another example of a plant and an animal developing a similar defense mechanism, no? Plant or animal, we do all seem to share the same world here...

    In case anyone's interested, this particular species of tarantula, Psalmopoeus cambridgei [bighairyspiders.com], is quite cool looking [bighairyspiders.com]... not quite as cool as, say, Avicularia versicolor [papiliophoto.com] or Haplopelma lividum [bighairyspiders.com], but cooler than I expected. :)

  • by herczy (1024845)
    I think it's usability. Naturaly, the effect is "popular" in the evolution, so it's possible, that they produce similar substances to achieve the same effect. Think of the many opiate-s (heroin, opium, morfium). They all have similar effects, since they influence the same receptors.
  • by dzfoo (772245) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @06:48AM (#16782899)
    >> The findings demonstrate that some plants and animals have evolved the same molecular strategy to deter predators -- triggering pain by activating a specific receptor on sensory nerves.

    This doesn't sound right. If this assertion is correct, it implies that as an organism is developing, its evolution is not only based on its perception of the environment, but on the exact biological constitution of it. How can a tarantula, for example, "know" of the existence of such receptors in its predators?

    I would imagine it works the other way around: predators developed a common sensory receptor to detect specific chemical threats, and trigger an immediate physical response in order to prevent further consumption.

            -dZ.
  • Endorphin (Score:2, Informative)

    by filthWisard (1015523)
    Eating hot chillies is knowen to relese endorphins, which is why they feel good to eat. Does this mean that people will be poisening themselvs with tarantulas to get a high?
  • Boomer (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    OK... Am I the only jerk that think this was about 3 rock bands using some kind of not-on-the hype music distribution system?
    [sigh]
    Man, i need to get out a little.

    D.
  • I know of the Chilli Peppers, but Tarantula Venom? Never heard of the band. Therefore I scientifically conclude that both don't share my (aural) receptor*. :P


    * = Ear for the laypeople

  • by ApharmdB (572578) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @07:33AM (#16783187)
    Alright! So when can I start getting bottles of tarantula sauce?
  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @07:34AM (#16783193) Homepage
    who thought the title sounded like something out of Rolling Stone:

    "New York punk group Tarantula Venom will be opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Receptor on 45th and Broadway ..."
  • by HappyOscar (65200)
    I think it might really be more a matter that the tarantulas whose venom activated these receptors had a far greater success in the wild; I don't think it's particularly accurate to say that things evolve based on their perception of their environment because, well, no one chooses how they evolve (though we're coming damn close to being able to).
  • How can a tarantula, for example, "know" of the existence of such receptors in its predators?

    Not necessarly need to "know". Some tanratula ancestrors could have mutated and started to secrete a some special compound into their venom. This compound was somewhat able to trigger an effect on some receptor of the thermo-algic nerves and thus provoking pain and burn sensasion.
    Those new mutant therefor happen to have discovered a better way to defend themselfes from potential predators and other menace. They surv

  • by juhaz (110830)
    This doesn't sound right. If this assertion is correct, it implies that as an organism is developing, its evolution is not only based on its perception of the environment, but on the exact biological constitution of it. How can a tarantula, for example, "know" of the existence of such receptors in its predators?

    Knowledge doesn't enter the picture. Chili plants (and tarantulas) experiment with chemicals, the more painful ones live, and the less painful ones are eaten. They don't need to "know" why that happe
  • So you have a choice, suffer the toxin of the spider venom, or eat 16 million Scoville pure capsaicin crystals and lose the feeling in your face forever?
    Fuck it, I'll take my chances with the spiders!
  • I start to feel worried when I see a post on slashdot that makes more sense to me than what the scientific article says. To me that means that the standard of conclusions being made from scientific observations is very poor.
  • by Unc-70 (975866)
    That's a very interesting idea, I don't have sufficient knowledge of vanilloid receptors to judge entirely.

    However, beyond their powerful spice effect, chillis (modern ones at least) don't pose a 'specific chemical threat'. So, a receptor inducing pain is unlikely to have offered a selective benefit for its carrier.

    In the case of a spider, they certainly wouldn't need to 'know' of the existence of a specific receptor. Those that were able to induce pain in a predator would be more likely to have a repr
  • by elronxenu (117773) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @08:03AM (#16783435) Homepage
  • Until tarantula venom shows up at stores like http://mohotta.com/ [mohotta.com] :)

    (Considering that they already sell "Blair's Megadeath Hot Sauce" and "Bee Sting Honey Mustard Hot Sauce".)

  • You're missing a comma :)
    You've got a choice of: Tarantula; Tarantula A.D.; Tarantulas, The; and Tarantella
    http://www.answers.com/library/Pop+Artists-letter- 1T-first-201 [answers.com]

    ... and of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venom_(band) [wikipedia.org]
  • by Aladrin (926209)
    Upon reading the headline, this was also my thought.

    Then I actually read the summary and it's only the pain receptor that is shared. It would not stop or slow the venom.
  • I dunno about this.. Both unexpected tarantulas and too many chili peppers can make you poop yourself..

  • Capsaicin (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @08:58AM (#16784079) Homepage Journal
    The active ingredient in chili peppers has been used as a topical pain relief treatment for ages, you can buy it over the counter. It's also the active ingredient in that self-defense pepper spray. The more you know... [wikipedia.org]
  • 'Receptor' in this case refers not to a cell, but to a specific protein structure called TRPV1. Many proteins exist in both plants and animals, particularly the ones most fundamental to life, such as those needed for DNA replication. This may be a little further afield, but it's really not shocking at all.

    Further, TRPV1 (more familiarly known as capsaicin receptor) is, in fact, activated both by heat from traditional sources (the sun, a stove, etc.) but also by things which we perceive as hot (such as peppe
  • Heat receptors (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, 2006 @09:08AM (#16784203)
    A biochemist friend of mine was telling me about some of his prospective research projects some time ago. It turns out that the receptor for capsacsin and for high temperature are one and the same, and what's unusual about these receptors is that they are not on the cell surface where most receptors are, but within the cell. This explains why it takes a little while for hot peppers to give you that tingle, and why it takes a while for it to go away, btw.
  • There's a spider in Australia known as the "Huntsman". It's a bit venomous (not that much as most Australian spiders, probably no worse than an American black widow). It's real weapon is terror -- it's so big it scares its victims to death. About the size of your hand, they're very fast and they *leap*.

    Not a real bad thing to see in your house though, as it means all the really nasty spiders have become Huntsman food. They don't seem to bother with webs. I don't think I'd want to cook with one of tho

  • Re:Yes, but... (Score:3, Informative)

    by arivanov (12034) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @09:11AM (#16784259) Homepage

    You can easily test that. Get yourself a bottle of original Russian "Pertsovka". It is a type of vodka, which has been left to stay above chilies. The drink has a reddish brown hue which depending on your level of capsacine addiction signifies either instant death or ultimate pleasure (or one through the other).

    It is the closest thing in the real world to the Pangalactic Gargle Blaster. You definitely feel like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick. In small quantities it is like getting them smashed with a "mere" hammer.

  • The females get some pretty wicked coloration on 'em when they're adult. I prefer the relative P. irminia, similar patterning but darks instead of lichen green, and more noticable tiger stripes.

    Either way, both species make great pets; only downside is being arboreal they damn near teleport when spooked.
  • Wouldn't that be "chili con spider"?
  • Actually I was sort of thinking the news was that two rock bands are now sharing groupies.
  • by mgblst (80109)
    Yes.
  • by fatphil (181876)
    "it implies ..."
    It doesn't. Nowhere does what you've quited imply that either spider or plant know anything about their environment. They simply "know" that they've not been eaten and can spread their seed - and thus (continue to) do so.

    FatPhil
  • Blair's Megadeath Sauce is actually pretty good; its got a good flavor beneath the pain. A drop of it in some rice or soup is tasty.

    Don't try eating any of it straight though, I must have drank 3 litres of water the one time I tried it like that. Not that the water helped, but it hurt so much I thought I should at least try to do something to help.
  • by Buck2 (50253)
    Suppose there are 100 tarantula communities scattered around the globe. 99 of them have a weak poison that predators cannot taste. One of them leaves a burning sensation. After a couple of sacrificial tarantula the remaining in the community may live unmolested.

    Same concept as for the plant.
  • It had to be said ...
  • Not as tasty. At least I assume they aren't.
  • by Chris Burke (6130)
    This doesn't sound right. If this assertion is correct, it implies that as an organism is developing, its evolution is not only based on its perception of the environment, but on the exact biological constitution of it. How can a tarantula, for example, "know" of the existence of such receptors in its predators?

    I would imagine it works the other way around: predators developed a common sensory receptor to detect specific chemical threats, and trigger an immediate physical response in order to prevent furthe
  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @10:46AM (#16786071)
    From what I've read, capsaicin works by altering the temperature set point for nerves. Sort of like messing up the calibration to temperature. The temperature that causes a burning sensation is lowered to below body temperature. Which also explains why cold drinks tend to help. On a related note, wintergreen oil (and related chemicals) do the opposite: set the cold sense higher. Apparently both work on the same pathway.

    Which makes me curious if anyone has combined chile with wintergreen and what happened.
  • by berbo (671598)

    How can a tarantula, for example, "know" of the existence of such receptors in its predators?

    It doesn't. See e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inheritance_of_acquir ed_traits [wikipedia.org]

    This particular species is still crawling the earth because it happened to produce a useful venom. The other species, umm, didn't do so well.

    Thats natural selection for you.

  • Make your own [bbc.co.uk]!
  • Ouch... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kagura (843695) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @11:55AM (#16786963)
    The findings demonstrate that some plants and animals have evolved the same molecular strategy to deter predators -- triggering pain by activating a specific receptor on sensory nerves.

    I'm trying to remember the last time I was bitten by a chili pepper.
  • by nuntius (92696) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @12:38PM (#16787299)
    Here's the source, not a (plagiarising?) blog.
    http://pub.ucsf.edu/newsservices/releases/20061107 2/ [ucsf.edu]
  • If this assertion is correct, it implies that as an organism is developing, its evolution is not only based on its perception of the environment, but on the exact biological constitution of it.

    That's a basic feature of evolutionary theory; the actual environment, and what works and doesn't work in it, is what drives evolution, not any organism's perception of the environment.

    How can a tarantula, for example, "know" of the existence of such receptors in its predators?

    It doesn't, and it doesn't need to. Evolu

  • On a side note... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Buckler (732071) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @01:09PM (#16787595)
    It may seem odd that capsaicin, a pain-causing compund, can relieve pain. Based on research, it appears that the receptors targetted by capsaicin can eventually become "fatigued", and stop responding, thus easing pain in the case of arthritis or shingles. A doctor friend of mine told me he was once involved in capsaicin pain-relief research. According to him, they injected several rabbits with a relatively pure capsaicin extract. The rabbits writhed in agony for an entire night, but the next day seemed calm and normal. They were put through a battery of tests, and to the incredulity of the researchers, they didn't respond to any pain stimulus whatsoever. It was (he said) as though they'd been completely and permanently anesthetised. In effect, they had "burned out" the capsaicin receptors of the rabbits.
  • @ 16787299 [slashdot.org] : It's not plagiarism, everything on the site are copyright free press releases. We just aggregate the best ones (manually chosen by me - Im a phd student in retrovirology / bioinformatics).

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