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Toxicon. 2007 Jun 15;49(8):1135-49. Epub 2007 Mar 1.

From the identification of gene organization of alpha conotoxins to the cloning of novel toxins.

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Institute of Protein Research, TongJi University, 1239 Siping Road, Shanghai 200092, China.


In the venoms of cone snails, alpha conotoxins are competitive antagonists of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Eleven novel cDNA and eight partial gene sequences (including two pseudogenes) of alpha conotoxins were identified from five species of cone snail. As expected, every cDNA encodes a precursor of prepropeptide. In all the partial genes of alpha conotoxins identified, there is a long intron inserted at a fixed position in the pro-region, dividing the encoding region into two exons. The mutation rate in exon I (encoding the signal peptide and a part of pro-region) is much lower than that in exon II (encoding the other part of pro-region, the mature peptide and 3' untranslational region). Interestingly, the sequences at the 5' and 3' end of introns are highly conserved. In addition, in the identified introns exist long dinucleotide (e.g. "GT", "CA") or trinucleotide ("CAT") repeats. In the special case of Pu 1.1, there are five almost identical repeats of a 150 bp sequence in the long intron. Taking advantage of the conserved 3' end sequence of intron, 16 alpha conotoxins, as well as a pseudogene and three kappa A conotoxins, were identified from their genomic DNAs. Based on the comparison of these cDNA and gene sequences, a hypothesis of the alpha conotoxin evolution was proposed.

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