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Toxicon. 2007 Mar 15;49(4):490-512. Epub 2006 Dec 5.

Insect-selective spider toxins targeting voltage-gated sodium channels.

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Neurotoxin Research Group, Department of Medical and Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology, Sydney P.O. Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia.


The voltage-gated sodium (Na(v)) channel is a target for a number of drugs, insecticides and neurotoxins. These bind to at least seven identified neurotoxin binding sites and either block conductance or modulate Na(v) channel gating. A number of peptide neurotoxins from the venoms of araneomorph and mygalomorph spiders have been isolated and characterized and determined to interact with several of these sites. These all conform to an 'inhibitor cystine-knot' motif with structural, but not sequence homology, to a variety of other spider and marine snail toxins. Of these, spider toxins several show phyla-specificity and are being considered as lead compounds for the development of biopesticides. Hainantoxin-I appears to target site-1 to block Na(v) channel conductance. Magi 2 and Tx4(6-1) slow Na(v) channel inactivation via an interaction with site-3. The delta-palutoxins, and most likely mu-agatoxins and curtatoxins, target site-4. However, their action is complex with the mu-agatoxins causing a hyperpolarizing shift in the voltage-dependence of activation, an action analogous to scorpion beta-toxins, but with both delta-palutoxins and mu-agatoxins slowing Na(v) channel inactivation, a site-3-like action. In addition, several other spider neurotoxins, such as delta-atracotoxins, are known to target both insect and vertebrate Na(v) channels most likely as a result of the conserved structures within domains of voltage-gated ion channels across phyla. These toxins may provide tools to establish the molecular determinants of invertebrate selectivity. These studies are being greatly assisted by the determination of the pharmacophore of these toxins, but without precise identification of their binding site and mode of action their potential in the above areas remains underdeveloped.

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