The wasp Ampulex compressa injects venom directly into the prothoracic ganglion of its cockroach host to induce a transient paralysis of the front legs. To identify the biochemical basis for this paralysis, we separated venom components according to molecular size and tested fractions for inhibition of synaptic transmission at the cockroach cercal-giant synapse. Only fractions in the low molecular weight range (<2 kDa) caused synaptic block. Dabsylation of venom components and analysis by HPLC and MALDI-TOF-MS revealed high levels of GABA (25 mM), and its receptor agonists β-alanine (18 mM), and taurine (9 mM) in the active fractions. Each component produces transient block of synaptic transmission at the cercal-giant synapse and block of efferent motor output from the pro-thoracic ganglion, which mimics effects produced by injection of whole venom. Whole venom evokes picrotoxin-sensitive chloride currents in cockroach central neurons, consistent with a GABAergic action. Together these data demonstrate that Ampulex utilizes GABAergic chloride channel activation as a strategy for central synaptic block to induce transient and focal leg paralysis in its host.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience