Alpha-conotoxins as pharmacological probes of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.
ABSTRACT: Cysteine-rich peptides from the venom of cone snails (Conus) target a wide variety of different ion channels. One family of conopeptides, the alpha-conotoxins, specifically target different isoforms of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) found both in the neuromuscular junction and central nervous system. This family is further divided into subfamilies based on the number of amino acids between cysteine residues. The exquisite subtype selectivity of certain alpha-conotoxins has been key to the characterization of native nAChR isoforms involved in modulation of neurotransmitter release, the pathophysiology of Parkinson's disease and nociception. Structure/function characterization of alpha-conotoxins has led to the development of analogs with improved potency and/or subtype selectivity. Cyclization of the backbone structure and addition of lipophilic moieties has led to improved stability and bioavailability of alpha-conotoxins, thus paving the way for orally available therapeutics. The recent advances in phylogeny, exogenomics and molecular modeling promises the discovery of an even greater number of alpha-conotoxins and analogs with improved selectivity for specific subtypes of nAChRs.
Project description:Conopeptides belonging to the A-superfamily from the venomous molluscs, Conus, are typically ?-conotoxins. The ?-conotoxins are of interest as therapeutic leads and pharmacological tools due to their selectivity and potency at nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subtypes. Structurally, the ?-conotoxins have a consensus fold containing two conserved disulfide bonds that define the two-loop framework and brace a helical region. Here we report on a novel ?-conotoxin Pl168, identified from the transcriptome of Conus planorbis, which has an unusual 4/8 loop framework. Unexpectedly, NMR determination of its three-dimensional structure reveals a new structural type of A-superfamily conotoxins with a different disulfide-stabilized fold, despite containing the conserved cysteine framework and disulfide connectivity of classical ?-conotoxins. The peptide did not demonstrate activity on a range of nAChRs, or Ca2+ and Na+ channels suggesting that it might represent a new pharmacological class of conotoxins.
Project description:Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are found throughout the mammalian body and have been studied extensively because of their implication in a myriad of diseases. ?-Conotoxins (?-CTxs) are peptide neurotoxins found in the venom of marine snails of genus Conus. ?-CTxs are potent and selective antagonists for a variety of nAChR isoforms. Over the past 40 years, ?-CTxs have proven to be valuable molecular probes capable of differentiating between closely related nAChR subtypes and have contributed greatly to understanding the physiological role of nAChRs in the mammalian nervous system. Here, we review the amino acid composition and structure of several ?-CTxs that selectively target nAChR isoforms and explore strategies and outcomes for introducing mutations in native ?-CTxs to direct selectivity and enhance binding affinity for specific nAChRs. This review will focus on structure-activity relationship studies involving native ?-CTxs that have been rationally mutated and molecular interactions that underlie binding between ligand and nAChR isoform.
Project description:Neuronal ?3-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and non-neuronal tissues are implicated in a number of severe disease conditions ranging from cancer to cardiovascular diseases and chronic pain. However, despite the physiological characterization of mouse models and cell lines, the precise pathophysiology of nAChRs outside the CNS remains not well understood, in part because there is a lack of subtype-selective antagonists. ?-Conotoxins isolated from cone snail venom exhibit characteristic individual selectivity profiles for nAChRs and, therefore, are excellent tools to study the determinants for nAChR-antagonist interactions. Given that human ?3?4 subtype selective ?-conotoxins are scarce and this is a major nAChR subtype in the PNS, the design of new peptides targeting this nAChR subtype is desirable. Recent studies using ?-conotoxins RegIIA and AuIB, in combination with nAChR site-directed mutagenesis and computational modelling, have shed light onto specific nAChR residues, which determine the selectivity of the ?-conotoxins for the human ?3?2 and ?3?4 subtypes. Publications describing the selectivity profile and binding sites of other ?-conotoxins confirm that subtype-selective nAChR antagonists often work through common mechanisms by interacting with the same structural components and sites on the receptor. LINKED ARTICLES:This article is part of a themed section on Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors. To view the other articles in this section visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bph.v175.11/issuetoc.
Project description:Conotoxins are small peptides present in the venom of cone snails. The snail uses this venom to paralyze and capture prey. The constituent conopeptides display a high level of chemical diversity and are of particular interest for scientists as tools employed in neurological studies and for drug development, because they target with exquisite specificity membrane receptors, transporters, and various ion channels in the nervous system. However, these peptides are known to contain a high frequency and variability of post-translational modifications-including sometimes O-glycosylation-which are of importance for biological activity. The potential application of specific conotoxins as neuropharmalogical agents and chemical probes requires a full characterization of the relevant peptides, including the structure of the carbohydrate part. In this review, the currently existing knowledge of O-glycosylation of conotoxins is described.
Project description:Among the brain tumors, glioma is the most common. In general, different biochemical mechanisms, involving nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and the arachidonic acid cascade are involved in oncogenesis. Although the engagement of the latter in survival and proliferation of rat C6 glioma has been shown, there are practically no data about the presence and the role of nAChRs in C6 cells. In this work we studied the effects of nAChR antagonists, marine snail α-conotoxins and snake α-cobratoxin, on the survival and proliferation of C6 glioma cells. The effects of the lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase inhibitors either alone or together with α-conotoxins and α-cobratoxin were studied in parallel. It was found that α-conotoxins and α-cobratoxin promoted the proliferation of C6 glioma cells, while nicotine had practically no effect at concentrations below 1 µL/mL. Nordihydroguaiaretic acid, a nonspecific lipoxygenase inhibitor, and baicalein, a 12-lipoxygenase inhibitor, exerted antiproliferative and cytotoxic effects on C6 cells. nAChR inhibitors weaken this effect after 24 h cultivation but produced no effects at longer times. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction showed that mRNA for α4, α7, β2 and β4 subunits of nAChR were expressed in C6 glioma cells. This is the first indication for involvement of nAChRs in mechanisms of glioma cell proliferation.
Project description:Alpha-conotoxins isolated from Conus venoms contain 11-19 residues and preferentially fold into the globular conformation that possesses a specific disulfide pairing pattern (C1-3, C2-4). We and others isolated a new family of chi-conotoxins (also called lambda conotoxins) with the conserved cysteine framework of alpha-conotoxins but with alternative disulfide pairing (C1-4, C2-3) resulting in the ribbon conformation. In both families, disulfide pairing and hence folding are important for their biological potency. By comparing the structural differences, we identified potential structural determinants responsible for the folding tendencies of these conotoxins. We examined the role of conserved proline in the first intercysteine loop and the conserved C-terminal amide on folding patterns of synthetic analogues of ImI conotoxin by comparing the isoforms with the regiospecifically synthesized conformers. Deamidation at the C-terminus and substitution of proline in the first intercysteine loop switch the folding pattern from the globular form of alpha-conotoxins to the ribbon form of chi/lambda-conotoxins. The findings are corroborated by reciprocal folding of CMrVIA chi/lambda-conotoxins. Substitution of Lys-6 from the first intercysteine loop of CMrVIA conotoxin with proline, as well as the inclusion of an amidated C-terminal shifted the folding preference of CMrVIA conotoxin from its native ribbon conformation toward the globular conformation. Binding assays of ImI conotoxin analogues with Aplysia and Bulinus acetylcholine binding protein indicate that both these substitutions and their consequent conformational change substantially impact the binding affinity of ImI conotoxin. These results strongly indicate that the first intercysteine loop proline and C-terminal amidation act as conformational switches in alpha- and chi/lambda-conotoxins.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The venom of predatory marine cone snails mainly contains a diverse array of unique bioactive peptides commonly referred to as conopeptides or conotoxins. These peptides have proven to be valuable pharmacological probes and potential drugs because of their high specificity and affinity to important ion channels, receptors and transporters of the nervous system. Most previous studies have focused specifically on the conopeptides from piscivorous and molluscivorous cone snails, but little attention has been devoted to the dominant vermivorous species. RESULTS:The vermivorous Chinese tubular cone snail, Conus betulinus, is the dominant Conus species inhabiting the South China Sea. The transcriptomes of venom ducts and venom bulbs from a variety of specimens of this species were sequenced using both next-generation sequencing and traditional Sanger sequencing technologies, resulting in the identification of a total of 215 distinct conopeptides. Among these, 183 were novel conopeptides, including nine new superfamilies. It appeared that most of the identified conopeptides were synthesized in the venom duct, while a handful of conopeptides were identified only in the venom bulb and at very low levels. CONCLUSIONS:We identified 215 unique putative conopeptide transcripts from the combination of five transcriptomes and one EST sequencing dataset. Variation in conopeptides from different specimens of C. betulinus was observed, which suggested the presence of intraspecific variability in toxin production at the genetic level. These novel conopeptides provide a potentially fertile resource for the development of new pharmaceuticals, and a pathway for the discovery of new conotoxins.
Project description:Marine drugs have developed rapidly in recent decades. Cone snails, a group of more than 700 species, have always been one of the focuses for new drug discovery. These venomous snails capture prey using a diverse array of unique bioactive neurotoxins, usually named as conotoxins or conopeptides. These conotoxins have proven to be valuable pharmacological probes and potential drugs due to their high specificity and affinity to ion channels, receptors, and transporters in the nervous systems of target prey and humans. Several research groups, including ours, have examined the venom gland of cone snails using a combination of transcriptomic and proteomic sequencing, and revealed the existence of hundreds of conotoxin transcripts and thousands of conopeptides in each Conus species. Over 2000 nucleotide and 8000 peptide sequences of conotoxins have been published, and the number is still increasing quickly. However, more than 98% of these sequences still lack 3D structural and functional information. With the rapid development of genomics and bioinformatics in recent years, functional predictions and investigations on conotoxins are making great progress in promoting the discovery of novel drugs. For example, ?-MVIIA was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004 to treat chronic pain, and nine more conotoxins are at various stages of preclinical or clinical evaluation. In short, the genus Conus, the big family of cone snails, has become an important genetic resource for conotoxin identification and drug development.
Project description:Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are targets for developing new drugs to treat severe pain, nicotine addiction, Alzheimer disease, epilepsy, etc. ?-Conotoxins are biologically and chemically diverse. With 12-19 residues and two disulfides, they can be specifically selected for different nAChRs. Acetylcholine-binding proteins from Aplysia californica (Ac-AChBP) are homologous to the ligand-binding domains of nAChRs and pharmacologically similar. X-ray structures of the ?-conotoxin in complex with Ac-AChBP in addition to computer modeling have helped to determine the binding site of the important residues of ?-conotoxin and its affinity for nAChR subtypes. Here, we present the various ?-conotoxin residues that are selective for Ac-AChBP or nAChRs by comparing the structures of ?-conotoxins in complex with Ac-AChBP and by modeling ?-conotoxins in complex with nAChRs. The knowledge of these binding sites will assist in the discovery and design of more potent and selective ?-conotoxins as drug leads.
Project description:?-Conotoxins are peptide neurotoxins isolated from venomous marine cone snails that are potent and selective antagonists for different subtypes of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). As such, they are valuable probes for dissecting the role that nAChRs play in nervous system function. In recent years, extensive insight into the binding mechanisms of ?-conotoxins with nAChRs at the molecular level has aided in the design of synthetic analogs with improved pharmacological properties. This review examines the structure-activity relationship studies involving ?-conotoxins as research tools for studying nAChRs in the central and peripheral nervous systems and their use towards the development of novel therapeutics.