A new study from  an international team of collaborators, including biologists at Washington State University, provides the first comprehensive explanation of how snake venom regulatory systems evolved—an important example that illuminates the evolution of new complex traits.

Blair Perry.

“This work gives us a better understanding of how snake venom evolved and how venom production functions at a genomic level,” said Blair Perry, a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Biological Sciences at WSU. He is lead author of the new paper.

“In addition to studying specific venom genes, we can now investigate parts of the genome involved in the regulation of these genes as well,” Perry said. “This opens up new opportunities to understand how variation in snake venom, both within and between snake species, corresponds to variation in the genome.”

In 2019, the World Health Organization declared snakebite a neglected tropical disease. The primary challenge for treating snakebite is the extreme variation in venom composition across populations and species of snakes.

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