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Papers of the Week

Papers: 22 Jun 2024 - 28 Jun 2024

2024 Jun 24

Pharmacol Rev


Conotoxins targeting voltage-gated sodium ion channels.


Pei S, Wang N, Mei Z, Zhangsun D, Craik DJ, McIntosh JM, Zhu X, Luo S


Voltage-gated sodium (Na) channels are intimately involved in the generation and transmission of action potentials, and dysfunction of these channels may contribute to nervous system diseases such as epilepsy, neuropathic pain, psychosis, autism and cardiac arrhythmia. Many venom peptides selectively act on Na channels. These include conotoxins, which are neurotoxins secreted by cone snails for prey capture or self-defense, but which are also valuable pharmacological tools for the identification and/or treatment of human diseases. Typically, conotoxins contain two or three disulfide bonds and these internal cross-braces contribute to conotoxins having compact, well-defined structures and high stability. Of the conotoxins containing three disulfide bonds some selectively target mammalian Na channels and can block, stimulate, or modulate these channels. Such conotoxins have great potential to serve as pharmacological tools for studying the functions and characteristics of Na channels or as drug leads for neurological diseases related to Na channels. Accordingly, discovering or designing conotoxins targeting Na channels with high potency and selectivity is important. The amino acid sequences, disulfide bond connectivity, and three-dimensional structures are key factors that affect the biological activity of conotoxins, and targeted synthetic modifications of conotoxins can greatly improve their activity and selectivity. This review examines Na channel-targeted conotoxins, focusing on their structures, activities and designed modifications, with a view towards expanding their applications. Na channels are crucial in various neurological diseases. Some conotoxins selectively target Na channels, causing either blockade or activation, thus enabling their use as pharmacological tools for studying the channels’ characteristics and functions. Conotoxins also have promising potential to be developed as drug leads. The disulfide bonds in these peptides are important for stabilizing their structures, thus leading to enhanced specificity and potency. Together, conotoxins targeting Na channels have both immediate research value and promising future application prospects.