Water-soluble proteinase activity of gastric fluids in the European whip snake, Hierophis viridiflavus: an experimental preliminary survey

Antonio Felicioli, Simona Sagona, Michele Corazza, Carlo Pretti, Marco A.L. Zuffi


Understanding the mechanism of metabolic digestion and of food assimilation in wild snake species is of fundamental importance to compare trophic niches, their adaptive significance and evolutionary patterns of diet selection for different snake species. From two adult Hierophis viridiflavus males in fasting condition, we sampled gastric fluids using fiberoptic endoscopy. We analyzed the proteolytic activities (optimal pH and temperature, response to inhibitors) of snake samples by zymography techniques. The two major protease activity bands were always detected at every tested pH. Activity bands were also detectable over 37 °C; in particular both bands showed the highest activity ranging from 55 °C to 60 °C. Ranging from 65 °C to 85 °C, one band remained visible while the other band disappeared over 60 °C. The pattern of proteolytic enzymes activity of sampled gastric fluids highlighted a scenario composed of few active proteases, reflecting the feeding status (e.g., fasting) of studied snakes. Detection of proteolytic activity until 85 °C, as in prokaryotic organisms, supported the hypothesis about the presence of proteases of exogenous source.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/Acta_Herpetol-12381

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