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Solenodon genome reveals convergent evolution of venom in eulipotyphlan mammals

Casewell, Nicholas R.; Petras, Daniel; Card, Daren C.; Suranse, Vivek; Mychajliw, Alexis M.; Richards, David; Koludarov, Ivan; Albulescu, Laura-Oana; Slagboom, Julien; Hempel, Benjamin-Florian; Ngum, Neville M.; Kennerley, Rosalind J.; Brocca, Jorge L.; Whiteley, Gareth; Harrison, Robert A.; Bolton, Fiona M. S.; Debono, Jordan; Vonk, Freek J.; Alföldi, Jessica; Johnson, Jeremy; Karlsson, Elinor K.; Lindblad-Toh, Kerstin; Mellor, Ian R.; Süssmuth, Roderich D.; Fry, Bryan G.; Kuruppu, Sanjaya; Hodgson, Wayne C.; Kool, Jeroen; Castoe, Todd A.; Barnes, Ian; Sunagar, Kartik; Undheim, Eivind A. B.; Turvey, Samuel T.


Nicholas R. Casewell

Daniel Petras

Daren C. Card

Vivek Suranse

Alexis M. Mychajliw

David Richards

Ivan Koludarov

Laura-Oana Albulescu

Julien Slagboom

Benjamin-Florian Hempel

Neville M. Ngum

Rosalind J. Kennerley

Jorge L. Brocca

Gareth Whiteley

Robert A. Harrison

Fiona M. S. Bolton

Jordan Debono

Freek J. Vonk

Jessica Alföldi

Jeremy Johnson

Elinor K. Karlsson

Kerstin Lindblad-Toh

Assistant Professor

Roderich D. Süssmuth

Bryan G. Fry

Sanjaya Kuruppu

Wayne C. Hodgson

Jeroen Kool

Todd A. Castoe

Ian Barnes

Kartik Sunagar

Eivind A. B. Undheim

Samuel T. Turvey


Venom systems are key adaptations that have evolved throughout the tree of life and typically facilitate predation or defense. Despite venoms being model systems for studying a variety of evolutionary and physiological processes, many taxonomic groups remain understudied, including venomous mammals. Within the order Eulipotyphla, multiple shrew species and solenodons have oral venom systems. Despite morphological variation of their delivery systems, it remains unclear whether venom represents the ancestral state in this group or is the result of multiple independent origins. We investigated the origin and evolution of venom in eulipotyphlans by characterizing the venom system of the endangered Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus). We constructed a genome to underpin proteomic identifications of solenodon venom toxins, before undertaking evolutionary analyses of those constituents, and functional assessments of the secreted venom. Our findings show that solenodon venom consists of multiple paralogous kallikrein 1 (KLK1) serine proteases, which cause hypotensive effects in vivo, and seem likely to have evolved to facilitate vertebrate prey capture. Comparative analyses provide convincing evidence that the oral venom systems of solenodons and shrews have evolved convergently, with the 4 independent origins of venom in eulipotyphlans outnumbering all other venom origins in mammals. We find that KLK1s have been independently coopted into the venom of shrews and solenodons following their divergence during the late Cretaceous, suggesting that evolutionary constraints may be acting on these genes. Consequently, our findings represent a striking example of convergent molecular evolution and demonstrate that distinct structural backgrounds can yield equivalent functions.


Casewell, N. R., Petras, D., Card, D. C., Suranse, V., Mychajliw, A. M., Richards, D., …Turvey, S. T. (2019). Solenodon genome reveals convergent evolution of venom in eulipotyphlan mammals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(51), 25745–25755.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 30, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 26, 2019
Publication Date Dec 17, 2019
Deposit Date Dec 16, 2019
Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Print ISSN 0027-8424
Electronic ISSN 1091-6490
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 116
Issue 51
Pages 25745–25755
Keywords Multidisciplinary
Public URL
Publisher URL


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