Animal venoms are complex mixtures of highly specialized toxic molecules. Cnidarians and arachnids produce pore-forming proteins (PFPs) directed against the plasma membrane of their target cells. Among PFPs from cnidarians, actinoporins stand out for their small size and molecular simplicity. While native actinoporins require only sphingomyelin for membrane binding, engineered chimeras containing a recognition antibody-derived domain fused to an actinoporin isoform can nonetheless serve as highly specific immunotoxins. Examples of such constructs targeted against malignant cells have been already reported. However, PFPs from arachnid venoms are less well-studied from a structural and functional point of view. Spiders from the Latrodectus genus are professional insect hunters that, as part of their toxic arsenal, produce large PFPs known as latrotoxins. Interestingly, some latrotoxins have been identified as potent and highly-specific insecticides. Given the proteinaceous nature of these toxins, their promising future use as efficient bioinsecticides is discussed throughout this Perspective. Protein engineering and large-scale recombinant production are critical steps for the use of these PFPs as tools to control agriculturally important insect pests. In summary, both families of PFPs, from Cnidaria and Arachnida, appear to be molecules with promising biotechnological applications.
- pore-forming proteins