Mode of Action of Marine Saponins on Neuromuscular Tissues
Medical research progress rept. no. 63
NAVAL MEDICAL RESEARCH INST BETHESDA MD
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The steroidal saponis elaborated by members of the echinoderm family of sea animals e.g., sea cucumbers and starfish are characterized by the principal structural elements 1 a complex steroid nucleus 2 a series of closely related sugars attached glycosidically to the 3-position of the steroid and 3 a negative charge locus imparted by esterification of a sugar hydroxyl group with a sulfuric acid moiety. The anionic saponins are surfactants, and highly irreversible in their destruction of excitability at a cholinergic neuromuscular juntion. Their efficacy and specificity in neuromuscular junction blockage appear to be closely linked to the polarity of the sugar residues, and to a requirement for negative charge in order to achieve maximum irreversibility in tissue interactions. Further, it has been found that the degree of their effects and their irreversibility in neuromuscular junction blockade are a sensitive function of both the total pressure under which the neuromuscular tissue operates, and of the degree of load against which the muscle works. These observations are interpreted in terms of potential sites and characteristics of the tissue chemoreceptor elements inactivated by the animal saponins.