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Discussion Topic - Essay Example

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The feathers of New Guinean passerine birds of the genus Pitohui contain potent neurotoxin (that is toxic to the nerves) called homobatrachotoxinin which is used as a chemical defense mechanism against predators.
I learnt that feathers and other tissues of New Guinean passerine…
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Download file to see previous pages Homobatrachotoxinin is a member of the family of steroidal alkaloids called Batrachotoxinins (Fig 1). These compounds have a molecular formula of C31H42N2O6, with a molar mass of 538.67g/mol and a density of 1.304g/ml. It is highly toxic and the median lethal dose (LD50) is 0.002 to 0.007 mg/kg depending upon species to species (Daly, 1965).
The mechanism of its toxicity is related to its action is on the voltage gated sodium channels present in the cell membrane. Since it is a steroidal alkaloid it can easily access the cell membrane of the predators, and binds to the voltage gated sodium channels and keeps them in a state of depolarization. These compounds bind irreversibly to the sodium channels creating a conformational change in them, that keeps the channels always in a open state. Further they also reduces conductance of these channels leading them to be in a state of less excitability. This impacts the nervous system because the membrane cannot become stabilized to its resting level (generation of resting membrane potential is hampered) which leads to impairment of neuromuscular transmission in the predator leading them into a state of paralysis. Apart from neurotoxicity they are also cardiotoxic as these compounds reduces cardiac conduction, cause arrhythmias and ventricular fibrillation. These compounds are temperature dependant and are effective at an optimum temperature of 37 degree centigrade and also work best in the alkaline pH range to exert its neurotoxic and cardiotoxic effects (Wang, 2007).
Conclusion: My hypothesis was supported by the research that Batrachotoxinins are effective avian chemicals tat are potent against predators however when the environmental temperature or core body temperature of predators increases beyond 37 degree centigrade, this molecule might not impact them and may not act as a chemical defense mechanism of the genus ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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