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Biochemistry. 1995 Nov 7;34(44):14519-26.

alpha-Conotoxin EI, a new nicotinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist with novel selectivity.

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Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City 84112, USA.


We report the isolation and characterization of a novel nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) ligand. The toxin is an 18 amino acid peptide and is the first reported alpha-conotoxin from an Atlantic fish-hunting Conus. The peptide was purified from the venom of Conus ermineus and is called alpha-conotoxin EI. The sequence diverges from that of previously isolated alpha-conotoxins. We demonstrate that this structural divergence has functional consequences. In Torpedo nAChRs, alpha-conotoxin EI selectively binds the agonist site near the alpha/delta subunit interface in contrast to alpha-conotoxin MI which selectively targets the alpha/gamma agonist binding site. In mammalian nAChRs alpha-conotoxin EI shows high affinity for both the alpha/delta and alpha/gamma subunit interfaces (with some preference for the alpha/delta site), whereas alpha-conotoxin MI is highly selective for the alpha/delta ligand binding site. The sequence of the peptide is: Arg-Asp-Hyp-Cys-Cys-Tyr-His-Pro-Thr-Cys-Asn-Met-Ser-Asn-Pro-Gln-Ile-Cys- NH2, with disulfide bridging between Cys4-Cys10 and Cys5-Cys18, analogous to those of previously described alpha-conotoxins. This sequence has been verified by total chemical synthesis. Thus, alpha-conotoxin EI is a newly-available tool with unique structure and function for characterization of nAChRs.

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