Editors' ChoiceEcology

Bite Me!

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Science Signaling  29 Oct 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 299, pp. ec264
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004853

As unpleasant as it is, pain serves a purpose: to alert the body to potential damage. This protective function may explain why few predators have evolved resistance to the painful venoms used as a defense by their prey. The grasshopper mouse, however, is insensitive to one of the most painful stings in the animal kingdom—that of the bark scorpion. Rowe et al. (see the Perspective by Lewin) now show that grasshopper mice use the toxins present in the scorpion venom to block voltage-gated pain transmission, temporarily reducing their sensitivity to nonvenom-induced pain. Thus, grasshopper mice use the scorpion's painful defense to their advantage and have evolved a mechanism that allows for reduction of pain sensitivity only when it is needed.

A. H. Rowe, Y. Xiao, M. P. Rowe, T. R. Cummins, H. H. Zakon, Voltage-gated sodium channel in grasshopper mice defends against bark scorpion toxin. Science 342, 441–446 (2013). [Abstract] [Full Text]

G. R. Lewin, Natural selection and pain meet at a sodium channel. Science 342, 428–429 (2013). [Abstract] [Full Text]