November 10, 2016
10:30 AM to 11:30 AM
CES Seminar Hall, 3rd Floor, Biological Sciences Building
Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES) hosts a talk titled “Deadly innovations. ‘Venomics’ for evolution, ecology, and snakebite management”.
Speaker: Dr. Kartik Sunagar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. More information about the speaker can be found here.
Abstract: Venomous animals have fascinated humans for millennia, and for good reasons. Injection of even miniscule amounts of certain venom components can result in rapid paralysis and death. The evolution of venom, one of nature’s most complex biochemical concoctions, has underpinned the predatory success and diversification of numerous animal lineages. Such a cocktail of pharmacologically active peptides, proteins, salts, and organic molecules is often employed for both predation and defence by the secreting animal.
The speaker studies animal venoms as a model system to understand various aspects in evolutionary biology, molecular biology and ecology. He has studied venoms across the breadth of the animal kingdom, including those of snakes, lizards, cnidarians (jellyfish, sea anemone, corals and hydras) – the first venomous animals, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, insects, vampire bats and coleoids (octopus, cuttlefish and squids). He employs an interdisciplinary approach, spanning omics (transcriptomics, proteomics and genomics), bioinformatics (e.g., simulations, evolutionary rate estimations, sequence and phylogenetic reconstructions) and molecular biology (e.g., transgenesis) in order to uncover i) the molecular and biochemical diversity in animal venoms; ii) the evolutionary origin and diversification of toxic protein families and the toxin- delivery apparatus; iii) the role of environmental and ecological factors in driving the evolution of venom and the venomous animals; iv) the molecular mechanisms of causing toxicity; and v) the evolution of venom resistance in prey animals. Most importantly, his research aims at utilizing the aforementioned information for the production of highly specific, efficient and cost effective next-generation antivenoms in India, where snakebite has become a socio-economical disease.