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Eur J Biochem. 2004 Jun;271(12):2327-34.

Computational approaches to understand alpha-conotoxin interactions at neuronal nicotinic receptors.

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Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


Recent and increasing use of computational tools in the field of nicotinic receptors has led to the publication of several models of ligand-receptor interactions. These models are all based on the crystal structure at 2.7 A resolution of a protein related to the extracellular N-terminus of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), the acetylcholine binding protein. In the absence of any X-ray or NMR information on nAChRs, this new structure has provided a reliable alternative to study the nAChR structure. We are now able to build homology models of the binding domain of any nAChR subtype and fit in different ligands using docking programs. This strategy has already been performed successfully for the docking of several nAChR agonists and antagonists. This minireview focuses on the interaction of alpha-conotoxins with neuronal nicotinic receptors in light of our new understanding of the receptor structure. Computational tools are expected to reveal the molecular recognition mechanisms that govern the interaction between alpha-conotoxins and neuronal nAChRs at the molecular level. An accurate determination of their binding modes on the neuronal nAChR may allow the rational design of alpha-conotoxin-based ligands with novel nAChR selectivity.

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