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Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2016 Jan;37(1):56-66. doi: 10.1038/aps.2015.139.

Peptide toxins and small-molecule blockers of BK channels.

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High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hefei 230031, China.
School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230027, China.


Large conductance, Ca(2+)-activated potassium (BK) channels play important roles in the regulation of neuronal excitability and the control of smooth muscle contractions. BK channels can be activated by changes in both the membrane potential and intracellular Ca(2+) concentrations. Here, we provide an overview of the structural and pharmacological properties of BK channel blockers. First, the properties of different venom peptide toxins from scorpions and snakes are described, with a focus on their characteristic structural motifs, including their disulfide bond formation pattern, the binding interface between the toxin and BK channel, and the functional consequence of the blockage of BK channels by these toxins. Then, some representative non-peptide blockers of BK channels are also described, including their molecular formula and pharmacological effects on BK channels. The detailed categorization and descriptions of these BK channel blockers will provide mechanistic insights into the blockade of BK channels. The structures of peptide toxins and non-peptide compounds could provide templates for the design of new channel blockers, and facilitate the optimization of lead compounds for further therapeutic applications in neurological disorders or cardiovascular diseases.

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