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Eur J Biochem. 2004 Jun;271(12):2305-19.

Alpha-conotoxins as tools for the elucidation of structure and function of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes.

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1
Max Planck-Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt, Germany. nicke@mpih-frankfurt.mpg.de

Abstract

Cone snails comprise approximately 500 species of venomous molluscs, which have evolved the ability to generate multiple toxins with varied and often exquisite selectivity. One class, the alpha-conotoxins, is proving to be a powerful tool for the differentiation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). These comprise a large family of complex subtypes, whose significance in physiological functions and pathological conditions is increasingly becoming apparent. After a short introduction into the structure and diversity of nAChRs, this overview summarizes the identification and characterization of alpha-conotoxins with selectivity for neuronal nAChR subtypes and provides examples of their use in defining the compositions and function of neuronal nAChR subtypes in native vertebrate tissues.

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