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Biophys J. 1994 Jan;66(1):1-13.

A structural model of the tetrodotoxin and saxitoxin binding site of the Na+ channel.

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Cardiac Electrophysiology Laboratories, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637.


Biophysical evidence has placed the binding site for the naturally occurring marine toxins tetrodotoxin (TTX) and saxitoxin (STX) in the external mouth of the Na+ channel ion permeation pathway. We developed a molecular model of the binding pocket for TTX and STX, composed of antiparallel beta-hairpins formed from peptide segments of the four S5-S6 loops of the voltage-gated Na+ channel. For TTX the guanidinium moiety formed salt bridges with three carboxyls, while two toxin hydroxyls (C9-OH and C10-OH) interacted with a fourth carboxyl on repeats I and II. This alignment also resulted in a hydrophobic interaction with an aromatic ring of phenylalanine or tyrosine residues for the brainII and skeletal Na+ channel isoforms, but not with the cysteine found in the cardiac isoform. In comparison to TTX, there was an additional interaction site for STX through its second guanidinium group with a carboxyl on repeat IV. This model satisfactorily reproduced the effects of mutations in the S5-S6 regions and the differences in affinity by various toxin analogs. However, this model differed in important ways from previously published models for the outer vestibule and the selectivity region of the Na+ channel pore. Removal of the toxins from the pocket formed by the four beta-hairpins revealed a structure resembling a funnel that terminated in a narrowed region suitable as a candidate for the selectivity filter of the channel. This region contained two carboxyls (Asp384 and Glu942) that substituted for molecules of water from the hydrated Na+ ion. Simulation of mutations in this region that have produced Ca2+ permeation of the Na+ channel created a site with three carboxyls (Asp384, Glu942, and Glu1714) in proximity.

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