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Curr Drug Targets. 2000 Nov;1(3):219-35.

Conantokins: inhibitors of ion flow through the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor channels.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, USA.


Calcium flow through the ion channel of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) has been implicated as contributing to a variety of neuropathologies. This receptor is a complex heteromeric oligomer consisting of different types of subunits, the nature of which governs its properties, as well as its response to a variety of agonists, antagonists, and other types of inhibitors. A new natural series of NMDAR inhibitors, the conantokins, have been shown to be present in the venoms of snails within the genus, Conus. These agents appear to function by inhibition of the spermine/spermidine stimulation of ion flow through the NMDAR channel. These small peptides (17-27 amino acid residues) are highly processed post-translationally. One such processing event is the vitamin K-dependent gamma-carboxylation of glutamate, resulting in placement of gamma-carboxyglutamic acid residues in these peptides. As a result, these peptides then possess the ability to interact with divalent metal ions and concomitantly undergo a conformational alteration. Rational drug design based on the characteristics of these promising peptides requires knowledge of their properties and the manner in which they target the NMDAR. This review summarizes current knowledge in this area.

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