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J Mol Recognit. 2004 Jul-Aug;17(4):339-47.

Determination of alpha-conotoxin binding modes on neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.

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Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.


alpha-Conotoxins, from cone snails, and alpha-neurotoxins, from snakes, are competitive inhibitors of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) that have overlapping binding sites in the ACh binding pocket. These disulphide-rich peptides are used extensively as tools to localize and pharmacologically characterize specific nAChRs subtypes. Recently, a homology model based on the high-resolution structure of an ACh binding protein (AChBP) allowed the three-fingered alpha-neurotoxins to be docked onto the alpha7 nAChR. To investigate if alpha-conotoxins interact with the nAChR in a similar manner, we built homology models of human alpha7 and alpha3beta2 nAChRs, and performed docking simulations of alpha-conotoxins ImI, PnIB, PnIA and MII using the program GOLD. Docking revealed that alpha-conotoxins have a different mode of interaction compared with alpha-neurotoxins, with surprisingly few nAChR residues in common between their overlapping binding sites. These docking experiments show that ImI and PnIB bind to the ACh binding pocket via a small cavity located above the beta9/beta10 hairpin of the (+)alpha7 nAChR subunit. Interestingly, PnIB, PnIA and MII were found to bind in a similar location on alpha7 or alpha3beta2 receptors mostly through hydrophobic interactions, while ImI bound further from the ACh binding pocket, mostly through electrostatic interactions. These findings, which distinguish alpha-conotoxin and alpha-neurotoxin binding modes, have implications for the rational design of selective nAChR antagonists.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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