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J Biol Chem. 2001 Jun 29;276(26):23589-98. Epub 2001 Apr 25.

Site-specific charge interactions of alpha-conotoxin MI with the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.

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Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


We have tested the importance of charge interactions for alpha-conotoxin MI binding to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR). Ionic residues on alpha-conotoxin MI were altered by site-directed mutagenesis or by chemical modification. In physiological buffer, removal of charges at the N terminus, His-5, and Lys-10 had small (2-4-fold) effects on binding affinity to the mouse muscle AChR and the Torpedo AChR. It was also demonstrated that conotoxin had no effect on the conformational equilibrium of either receptor, as assessed by the effects of the noncompetitive antagonist proadifen on conotoxin binding and, conversely, the effect of conotoxin on the affinity of phencyclidine, proadifen, and ethidium. Conotoxin displayed higher binding affinity in low ionic strength buffer; neutralization of Lys-10 and the N terminus by acetylation blocked this affinity shift at the alphadelta site but not at the alphagamma site. It is concluded that Ctx residues Lys-10 and the N terminal interact with oppositely charged receptor residues only at the alphadelta site, and the two sites have distinct arrangements of charged residues. Ethidium fluorescence experiments demonstrated that conotoxin is formally competitive with a small cholinergic ligand, tetramethylammonium. Thus, alpha-conotoxin MI appears to interact with the portion of the binding site responsible for stabilizing agonist cations but does not do so with a cationic residue and is, consequently, incapable of inducing a conformational change.

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