Parasitoid wasp sting: A cocktail of GABA, taurine, and β-alanine opens chloride channels for central synaptic block and transient paralysis of a cockroach host Academic Article uri icon


  • The wasp Ampulex compressa injects venom directly into the prothoracic ganglion of its cockroach host to induce a transient paralysis of the front legs. To identify the biochemical basis for this paralysis, we separated venom components according to molecular size and tested fractions for inhibition of synaptic transmission at the cockroach cercal‐giant synapse. Only fractions in the low molecular weight range (<2 kDa) caused synaptic block. Dabsylation of venom components and analysis by HPLC and MALDI‐TOF‐MS revealed high levels of GABA (25 mM), and its receptor agonists β‐alanine (18 mM), and taurine (9 mM) in the active fractions. Each component produces transient block of synaptic transmission at the cercal‐giant synapse and block of efferent motor output from the prothoracic ganglion, which mimics effects produced by injection of whole venom. Whole venom evokes picrotoxin‐sensitive chloride currents in cockroach central neurons, consistent with a GABAergic action. Together these data demonstrate that Ampulex utilizes GABAergic chloride channel activation as a strategy for central synaptic block to induce transient and focal leg paralysis in its host. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol, 2006

publication date

  • January 1, 2006