Easy allergens: Live fire ants in apolar organic solvent secrete venom proteins into a water phase.
Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash
What is it about?
A new method to extract venom proteins from fire ants is devised. It can be easily adapted to extract whole nests of live ants. So simple we were surprised nobody had described this before. Firstly you excavate the fire ant nest off the ground into a bucket they cannot escape from (e.g. anti-adherent , rimmed with talc). The bucket is slowly flooded with dripping water, so that the ants will leave the soil to form a floating raft (this takes about 3h). Meantime you prepare a clean, glass recipient containing about 5:1 apolar organic solvent and clean water; We have employed hexane, but any immiscible solvent should work. When the raft is formed, take the ants off the water, and either allow them to clean and dry up first (in a separate recipient) or directly drop them into the solvent. The ants will die in second, displaying violent stinging behavior. They will sting into the solvent, resulting in venom proteins being captured in the water phase. Finally, siphon off and centrifuge the lower watery phase, and you're fire ant allergen solution is ready. To purify venom allergens, proceed to either cold acetone precipitation or lyophilisation. As much as 15 mg of venom proteins can be obtained from a fire ant nest, within 1 working day!
Why is it important?
Extracting venom allergens from insects is typically very hard, work-heavy, time-consuming, and depending on dedicated expertise and structure. Our presented method is so simple it can be applied with minimal skills and lab structure. Fire ant venom proteins have remained poorly studied for decades because of the difficulties in obtaining them naturally. The method empowers labs to bioassay the sample locally wherever fire ants are available.
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Eduardo G P Fox