© The Author(s), 2021. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Torres, J. P., Lin, Z., Watkins, M., Salcedo, P. F., Baskin, R. P., Elhabian, S., Safavi-Hemami, H., Taylor, D., Tun, J., Concepcion, G. P., Saguil, N., Yanagihara, A. A., Fang, Y., McArthur, J. R., Tae, H. S., Finol-Urdaneta, R. K., Özpolat, B. D., Olivera, B. M., & Schmidt, E. W. Small-molecule mimicry hunting strategy in the imperial cone snail, Conus imperialis. Science Advances, 7(11), (2021): eabf2704, https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abf2704.
Venomous animals hunt using bioactive peptides, but relatively little is known about venom small molecules and the resulting complex hunting behaviors. Here, we explored the specialized metabolites from the venom of the worm-hunting cone snail, Conus imperialis. Using the model polychaete worm Platynereis dumerilii, we demonstrate that C. imperialis venom contains small molecules that mimic natural polychaete mating pheromones, evoking the mating phenotype in worms. The specialized metabolites from different cone snails are species-specific and structurally diverse, suggesting that the cones may adopt many different prey-hunting strategies enabled by small molecules. Predators sometimes attract prey using the prey’s own pheromones, in a strategy known as aggressive mimicry. Instead, C. imperialis uses metabolically stable mimics of those pheromones, indicating that, in biological mimicry, even the molecules themselves may be disguised, providing a twist on fake news in chemical ecology.
Research reported in this publication was supported by NIH R35GM12252, with contributions to biological work from NIH Fogarty International Center U19TW008163, NIH P01GM48677, and DOD CDMRP W81XWH-17-1-0413. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.
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