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J Biol Inorg Chem. 2010 Jun;15(5):667-75. doi: 10.1007/s00775-010-0633-2. Epub 2010 Mar 2.

Metal ion determinants of conantokin dimerization as revealed in the X-ray crystallographic structure of the Cd(2+)/Mg (2+)-con-T[K7gamma] complex.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 48824, USA.


Predatory sea snails from the Conus family produce a variety of venomous small helical peptides called conantokins that are rich in gamma-carboxyglutamic acid (Gla) residues. As potent and selective antagonists of the N-methyl-D: -aspartate receptor, these peptides are potential therapeutic agents for a variety of neurological conditions. The two most studied members of this family of peptides are con-G and con-T. Con-G has Gla residues at sequence positions 3, 4, 7, 10, and 14, and requires divalent cation binding to adopt a helical conformation. Although both Ca(2+) and Mg(2+) can fulfill this role, Ca(2+) induces dimerization of con-G, whereas the Mg(2+)-complexed peptide remains monomeric. A variant of con-T, con-T[K7gamma] (gamma is Gla), contains Gla residues at the same five positions as in con-G and behaves very similarly with respect to metal ion binding and dimerization; each peptide binds two Ca(2+) ions and two Mg(2+) ions per helix. To understand the difference in metal ion selectivity, affinity, and the dependence on Ca(2+) for dimer formation, we report here the structure of the monomeric Cd(2+)/Mg(2+)-con-T[K7gamma] complex, and, by comparison with the previously published con-T[K7gamma]/Ca(2+) dimer structure, we suggest explanations for both metal ion binding site specificity and metal-ion-dependent dimerization.

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