Venom Resistance as a Model for Understanding the Molecular Basis of Complex Coevolutionary Adaptations

Matthew L. Holding, Danielle H. Drabeck, Sharon A Jansa, H. Lisle Gibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Synopsis Venom and venom resistance are molecular phenotypes widely considered to have diversified through coevolution between predators and prey. However, while evolutionary and functional studies on venom have been extensive, little is known about the molecular basis, variation, and complexity of venom resistance. We review known mechanisms of venom resistance and relate these mechanisms to their predicted impact on coevolutionary dynamics with venomous enemies. We then describe two conceptual approaches which can be used to examine venom/resistance systems. At the intraspecific level, tests of local adaptation in venom and resistance phenotypes can identify the functional mechanisms governing the outcomes of coevolution. At deeper evolutionary timescales, the combination of phylogenetically informed analyses of protein evolution coupled with studies of protein function promise to elucidate the mode and tempo of evolutionary change on potentially coevolving genes. We highlight case studies that use each approach to extend our knowledge of these systems as well as address larger questions about coevolutionary dynamics. We argue that resistance and venom are phenotypic traits which hold exceptional promise for investigating the mechanisms, dynamics, and outcomes of coevolution at the molecular level. Furthermore, extending the understanding of single gene-for-gene interactions to the whole resistance and venom phenotypes may provide a model system for examining the molecular and evolutionary dynamics of complex multi-gene interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1032-1043
Number of pages12
JournalIntegrative and comparative biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by National Science Foundation DEB Award #1257796 and SICB; student support from the Bell Museum of Natural History and the Dayton Fund Fellowship and the University of Minnesota Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Travel fund [to D.D. and S.J.].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. All rights reserved.


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