The Australian snakes of the genus Pseudonaja (dugite, gwardar and common brown) account for the majority of snake bite related deaths in Australia. Without antivenom treatment, the risk of mortality is significant. There is an accumulating body of evidence to suggest that the efficacy of the antivenom is limited. The current study investigates the protein constituents recognized by the antivenom using 2-DE, immuno-blot techniques and rat tracheal organ bath assays. The 2-DE profiles for all three snake venoms were similar, with major species visualized at 78-132 kDa, 32-45 kDa and 6-15 kDa. Proteins characterized by LC-MS/MS revealed a coagulant toxin (similar to 42 kDa) and coagulant peptide (similar to 6 kDa), as well as two PLA(2) (similar to 14 kDa). Peptides isolated from similar to 78 kDa and 15-32 kDa protein components showed no similarity to known protein sequences. Protein recognition by the antivenom occurred predominantly for the higher molecular weight components with little recognition of 632 kDa MW species. The ability of antivenom to neutralize venom activity was also investigated using rat tracheal organ bath assays. The venoms of Pseudonaja affinis affinis and Pseudonaja nuchalis incited a sustained, significant contraction of the trachea. These contractions were attributed to PLA(2) enzymatic activity as pre-treatment with the PLA(2) inhibitor 4-BPB attenuated the venom-induced contractions. The venom of Pseudonaja textilis incited tracheal contractility through a non-PLA(2) enzymatic activity. Neither activity was attenuated by the antivenom treatment. These results represent the first proteomic investigation of the venoms from the snakes of the genus Pseudonaja, revealing a possible limitation of the brown snake antivenom in binding to the low MW protein components. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.