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J Pept Sci. 2006 Nov;12(11):693-704.

Novel alpha-conotoxins identified by gene sequencing from cone snails native to Hainan, and their sequence diversity.

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  • 1Key Laboratory for Tropical Aquatic and Terrestrial Biological Resources (MOE), Ocean College, Center for Experimental Biotechnology, Hainan University, Haikou Hainan, 570228 China.


Conotoxins (CTX) from the venom of marine cone snails (genus Conus) represent large families of proteins, which show a similar precursor organization with surprisingly conserved signal sequence of the precursor peptides, but highly diverse pharmacological activities. By using the conserved sequences found within the genes that encode the alpha-conotoxin precursors, a technique based on RT-PCR was used to identify, respectively, two novel peptides (LiC22, LeD2) from the two worm-hunting Conus species Conus lividus, and Conus litteratus, and one novel peptide (TeA21) from the snail-hunting Conus species Conus textile, all native to Hainan in China. The three peptides share an alpha4/7 subfamily alpha-conotoxins common cysteine pattern (CCX(4)CX(7)C, two disulfide bonds), which are competitive antagonists of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChRs). The cDNA of LiC22N encodes a precursor of 40 residues, including a propeptide of 19 residues and a mature peptide of 21 residues. The cDNA of LeD2N encodes a precursor of 41 residues, including a propeptide of 21 residues and a mature peptide of 16 residues with three additional Gly residues. The cDNA of TeA21N encodes a precursor of 38 residues, including a propeptide of 20 residues and a mature peptide of 17 residues with an additional residue Gly. The additional residue Gly of LeD2N and TeA21N is a prerequisite for the amidation of the preceding C-terminal Cys. All three sequences are processed at the common signal site -X-Arg- immediately before the mature peptide sequences. The properties of the alpha4/7 conotoxins known so far were discussed in detail. Phylogenetic analysis of the new conotoxins in the present study and the published homologue of alpha4/7 conotoxins from the other Conus species were performed systematically. Patterns of sequence divergence for the three regions of signal, proregion, and mature peptides, both nucleotide acids and residue substitutions in DNA and peptide levels, as well as Cys codon usage were analyzed, which suggest how these separate branches originated. Percent identities of the DNA and amino acid sequences of the signal region exhibited high conservation, whereas the sequences of the mature peptides ranged from almost identical to highly divergent between inter- and intra-species. Notably, the diversity of the proregion was also high, with an intermediate percentage of divergence between that observed in the signal and in the toxin regions. The data presented are new and are of importance, and should attract the interest of researchers in this field. The elucidated cDNAs of these toxins will facilitate a better understanding of the relationship of their structure and function, as well as the process of their evolutionary relationships.

Copyright 2006 European Peptide Society and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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