Centipedes subdue giant prey by blocking KCNQ channels

Lei Luo, Bowen Li, Sheng Wang, Fangming Wu, Xiaochen Wang, Ping Liang, Rose Ombati, Junji Chen, Xiancui Lu, Jianmin Cui, Qiumin Lu, Longhua Zhang, Ming Zhou, Changlin Tian, Shilong Yang, Ren Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Centipedes can subdue giant prey by using venom, which is metabolically expensive to synthesize and thus used frugally through efficiently disrupting essential physiological systems. Here, we show that a centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans, ∼3 g) can subdue a mouse (∼45 g) within 30 seconds. We found that this observation is largely due to a peptide toxin in the venom, SsTx, and further established that SsTx blocks KCNQ potassium channels to exert the lethal toxicity. We also demonstrated that a KCNQ opener, retigabine, neutralizes the toxicity of a centipede’s venom. The study indicates that centipedes’ venom has evolved to simultaneously disrupt cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular, and nervous systems by targeting the broadly distributed KCNQ channels, thus providing a therapeutic strategy for centipede envenomation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1646-1651
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 13 2018


  • Centipede
  • KCNQ
  • SsTx
  • Toxicity


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