Eur J Biochem. 2003 Jul;270(13):2697-706.
We used a PCR-based method to determine the genomic DNA sequences encoding phospholipases A2 (PLA2s) from the venoms of Vipera aspis aspis (V. a. aspis), Vipera aspis zinnikeri (V. a. zinnikeri), Vipera berus berus (V. b. berus) and a neurotoxic V. a. aspis snake (neurotoxic V. a. aspis) from a population responsible for unusual neurotoxic envenomations in south-east France. We sequenced five groups of genes, each corresponding to a different PLA2. The genes encoding the A and B chains of vaspin from the neurotoxic V. a. aspis, PLA2-I from V. a. zinnikeri, and the anticoagulant PLA2 from V. b. berus are described here. Single nucleotide differences leading to amino-acid substitutions were observed both between genes encoding the same PLA2 and between genes encoding different PLA2s. These differences were clustered in exons 3 and 5, potentially altering the biological activities of PLA2. The distribution and characteristics of the PLA2 genes differed according to the species or subspecies. We characterized for the first time genes encoding neurotoxins from the V. a. aspis and V. b. berus snakes of central France. Genes encoding ammodytins I1 and I2, described previously in Vipera ammodytes ammodytes (V. am. ammodytes), were also present in V. a. aspis and V. b. berus. Three different ammodytin I1 gene sequences were characterized: one from V. b. berus, the second from V. a. aspis, V. a. zinnikeri and the neurotoxic V. a. aspis, and the third from the neurotoxic V. a. aspis. This third sequence was identical with the reported sequence of the V. am. ammodytes ammodytin I1 gene. Genes encoding monomeric neurotoxins of V. am. ammodytes venom, ammodytoxins A, B and C, and the Bov-B LINE retroposon, a phylogenetic marker found in V. am. ammodytes genome, were identified in the genome of the neurotoxic V. a. aspis. These results suggest that the population of neurotoxic V. a. aspis snakes from south-east France may have resulted from interbreeding between V. a. aspis and V. am. ammodytes.