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J Med Chem. 2008 Sep 25;51(18):5575-84. doi: 10.1021/jm800278k.

Molecular engineering of conotoxins: the importance of loop size to alpha-conotoxin structure and function.

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


Alpha-conotoxins are competitive antagonists of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). The majority of currently characterized alpha-conotoxins have a 4/7 loop size, and the major features of neuronal alpha-conotoxins include a globular disulfide connectivity and a helical structure centered around the third of their four cysteine residues. In this study, a novel "molecular pruning" approach was undertaken to define the relationship between loop size, structure, and function of alpha-conotoxins. This involved the systematic truncation of the second loop in the alpha-conotoxin [A10L]PnIA [4/7], a potent antagonist of the alpha7 nAChR. The penalty for truncation was found to be decreased conformational stability and increased susceptibility to disulfide bond scrambling. Truncation down to 4/4[A10L]PnIA maintained helicity and did not significantly reduce electrophysiological activity at alpha7 nAChRs, whereas 4/3[A10L]PnIA lost both alpha7 nAChR activity and helicity. In contrast, all truncated analogues lost approximately 100-fold affinity at the AChBP, a model protein for the extracellular domain of the nAChR. Docking simulations identified several hydrogen bonds lost upon truncation that provide an explanation for the reduced affinities observed at the alpha7 nAChR and AChBP.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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