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Biochemistry. 2004 Jul 13;43(27):8625-35.

KappaM-conotoxin RIIIK, structural and functional novelty in a K+ channel antagonist.

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Molecular and Cellular Neuropharmacology Group, Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine, Hermann-Rein-Strasse 3, D-37075 Göttingen, Germany.


Venomous organisms have evolved a variety of structurally diverse peptide neurotoxins that target ion channels. Despite the lack of any obvious structural homology, unrelated toxins that interact with voltage-activated K(+) channels share a dyad motif composed of a lysine and a hydrophobic amino acid residue, usually a phenylalanine or a tyrosine. kappaM-Conotoxin RIIIK (kappaM-RIIIK), recently characterized from the cone snail Conus radiatus, blocks Shaker and TSha1 K(+) channels. The functional and structural study presented here reveals that kappaM-conotoxin RIIIK blocks voltage-activated K(+) channels with a novel pharmacophore that does not comprise a dyad motif. Despite the quite different amino acid sequence and no overlap in the pharmacological activity, we found that the NMR solution structure of kappaM-RIIIK in the C-terminal half is highly similar to that of mu-conotoxin GIIIA, a specific blocker of the skeletal muscle Na(+) channel Na(v)1.4. Alanine substitutions of all non-cysteine residues indicated that four amino acids of kappaM-RIIIK (Leu1, Arg10, Lys18, and Arg19) are key determinants for interaction with K(+) channels. Following the hypothesis that Leu1, the major hydrophobic amino acid determinant for binding, serves as the hydrophobic partner of a dyad motif, we investigated the effect of several mutations of Leu1 on the biological function of kappaM-RIIIK. Surprisingly, both the structural and mutational analysis suggested that, uniquely among well-characterized K(+) channel-targeted toxins, kappaM-RIIIK blocks voltage-gated K(+) channels with a pharmacophore that is not organized around a lysine-hydrophobic amino acid dyad motif.

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