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Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases

On-line version ISSN 1678-9199

J. Venom. Anim. Toxins incl. Trop. Dis vol.11 no.3 Botucatu July/Sept. 2005 



Vipoxin specificity studied by gas chromatographic determination of enzymatic reaction products. Influence of Ca2+, Mg2+ and Sr2+



Atanasov V.I; Bardarov V.II; Aleksiev B.III; Mitewa M.I

IDepartment of Analytical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria
IIToxicochemical Laboratory, Department of Toxicology, Military Medical Academy, Sofia, Bulgaria
IIIDepartment of Organic Chemistry, University of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy, Sofia, Bulgaria





Gas chromatographic procedure with mass spectrometric detection was applied to quantitatively determine the enzymatic specificity and activity of vipoxin (a neurotoxin from the Vipera ammodytes meridionalis venom) as well as the influence of Ca2+, Mg2+ and Sr2+ on these properties.

Key Words: vipoxin, phospholipase A2, enzyme specificity, Ca2+, Mg2+, Sr2+ influence.




It is already well documented that vipoxin is the main toxic factor of the Vipera ammodytes meridionalis venom (2), showing both neurotoxic action (LD50 value of 400 µg/kg for white mice) and phospholipase activity (1). Detailed study on its chemical structure has proved the formation of an ionic complex consisting of basic and acidic subunits – toxic phospholipase A2 and nontoxic inhibitor, respectively (12). Both subunits are built from 122 amino acid residues each and show high structural homology (62% amino acidic identity) (6, 12). After separation of the subunits, the phospholipase A2 (both in solution and in lyophilized form) irreversibly looses its activity in a short period of time. When complexed with the inhibitor, however, the toxicity is retained for a long period combined with the phospholipase activity; the latter being lower compared with the freshly obtained free phospholipase A2 (12).

The enzymatic specificity of the above-mentioned phospholipase A2 is of immense interest because of the important role the different types of this enzyme play in numerous bioprocesses (10). Until the present moment, however, only its total enzymatic activity has been studied using pH-stat titration of the released fatty acids and isotopically labeled substrates; fluorescently marked ones are also used in spectrophotometric and chromatographic studies (3, 5, 8, 9, 13, 14). So far only the chromatographic techniques allow the determination of the individual fatty acids concentration. In the present paper a gas chromatographic method with mass spectrometric detection (GC-MS) is applied allowing the kinetic monitoring of the enzymatic specificity together with the total and specific phospholipase activity.

On the other hand, there are only scarce data about the influence of Ca2+ ions on the phospholipase A2 activity, its physicochemical properties, and the high structures (4) of vipoxin, whereas the influence of metal ions on the enzymatic specificity has not been studied. Therefore the vipoxin specificity in presence of Ca2+ was investigated since it is expected to influence enzymatic specificity. For comparison purpose, the influence of Mg2+ and Sr2+ ions was also studied.



The vipoxin used was isolated from air-dried venom of Vipera ammodytes meridionalis using the column chromatography procedure (11) followed by lyophilization and storage at 0-5ºC.

The soybean lecithin was purchased from "Serva". All other chemicals and solvents used were AR grade (Merck) and the solvents used in the chromatographic experiments were GC grade (Merck).

Fatty acids and fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) reference substances were purchased from "Serva".

Diazald®, used for preparation of diazomethane, was purchased from Sigma.

The enzyme reaction was carried out at optimum conditions followed by extraction of the released fatty acids and their quantitation after methylation.

The individual determination of FAMEs was made on a gas chromatograph Trace DSQ Thermo-Finnigan equipped with a split/splitless injector working in "splitless" mode, capillary column Supelcowax 10 (30m x 0.32mm x 0.4µm film, Supelco Inc.), at temperature program ranging from 70ºC to 230ºC, helium carrier gas with flow rate of 1.2 ml/min, and quadruple EI mass spectrometric detector operating in "SCAN" mode in the 50-350 m/z range.

Soybean lecithin, emulsified in 40% (v/v) methanol/deionized water free from Ca2+ ions, was used as substrate.

The enzymatic reaction was carried out at optimum conditions (12), 40 µl freshly prepared 0.1 mM vipoxin solution was added to 4.0 ml of 0.5 mg/ml neutral substrate solution containing a definite amount of Ca2+. The mixture was incubated for 25 min at 25ºC and stopped by the addition of 1 ml 1M H2SO4. The fatty acids released were immediately extracted by three-fold extraction with portions of 2 ml each (n-propanol/hexane/heptane [4: 1: 1]). After the addition of 100 µl internal standard (100 µg/ml heptadecanoic acid) the solvent was evaporated under nitrogen flow and the dry residue was methylated with ether solution of diazomethane. The methylated esters obtained were dissolved in methanol and the aliquots were analyzed using the GC-MS technique.



According to literature data (7, 15), it was established that the substrate of the enzymatic reaction, 1,2-diacyl-sn-glycerol-3-phosphocholine (natural lecithin), predominantly contains saturated fatty acids (palmitic and stearic) at the first position (A1) and unsaturated fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic) at the second (A2) (Table 1 and Figure 1).







The dependence of the vipoxin total enzymatic activity (RVip) on the Ca2+ concentration and on the enzymatic specificity ratio (R) in presence of Ca2+ is presented in Figures 2 and 3, respectively. It is evident that at 1.5 mM Ca2+ concentration maximum vipoxin total enzymatic activity is observed, in agreement with some literature data available (13). Also at this Ca2+ concentration the highest enzymatic specificity was recorded, which is approximately 1.3 times higher than the one found in absence of Ca2+.





The influence of Mg2+ and Sr2+ on the enzymatic activity and specificity was also studied, and the experimental conditions were the same as those in which the maximum influence of Ca2+ ions was observed.

The data obtained are summarized in Figure 4, showing the values of the corresponding activities and specificities in absence and presence of Ca2+, Mg2+ and Sr2+ ions. As it can be observed, the enzymatic activity is slightly increased in presence of Mg2+, while Sr2+ ions decrease it. Quite different is their influence on the specificity - in presence of 1.5 mM Ca2+ it is increased 1.3 times, while both Mg2+ and Sr2+ cause its decrease. Positive effect of Ca2+ (strong) and Mg2+ (small) on the vipoxin phospholipase activity was confirmed together with the negative effect of Sr2+.




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Correspondence to
M. Mitewa
University of Sofia, Faculty of Chemistry
Department of Analytical Chemistry, 1
J. Bourchier Avenue, 1126
Sofia, Bulgaria
Fax: + 3592 96 25 438

Received: November 8, 2004
Accepted: February 4, 2005
Published online: July 1, 2005

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