A short (259 nucleotide) conserved intronic sequence (CIS) is surprisingly informative for delineating deep phylogenetic relationships in cone snails. Conus species previously have been assigned to clades based on the evidence from mitochondrial 12S and 16S rRNA gene sequences (1129 bp). Despite their length, these genes lack the phylogenetic information necessary to resolve the relationships among the clades. Here we show that the relationships can be inferred from just 46 sites in the very short CIS sequence (a portion of “intron 9” of the γ-glutamyl carboxylase gene). This is counterintuitive because in short sequences sampling error (noise) often drowns out phylogenetic signal. The intron 9 CIS is rich in synapomorphies that define the divergence patterns among eight clades of worm- and fish-hunting Conus, and it contains almost no homoplasy. Parsimony, maximum-likelihood and Bayesian analyses of the combined sequences (mt rRNA + CIS) confirm most of the relationships among 23 Conus sequences. This phylogeny implies that fish-hunting behavior evolved at least twice during the history of Conus -once among New World species and independently in the Indo-Pacific clades.
episodic evolution; conserved intron; Conus; evolution
An impressive biodiversity (>10,000 species) of marine snails (suborder Toxoglossa or superfamily Conoidea) have complex venoms, containing ca. 100 biologically active, disulfide-rich peptides. In the genus Conus, the most intensively investigated toxoglossan lineage (~500 species), a small set of venom gene superfamilies undergo rapid sequence hyperdiversification within their mature toxin regions. Each major lineage of Toxoglossa has its own distinct set of venom gene superfamilies. Two recently identified venom gene superfamilies are expressed in the large Turridae clade, but not in Conus. Thus, as major venomous molluscan clades expand, a small set of lineage specific venom gene superfamilies undergo accelerated evolution. The juxtaposition of extremely conserved signal sequences with hypervariable mature peptide regions is unprecedented and raises the possibility that in these gene superfamilies, the signal sequences are conserved as a result of an essential role they play in enabling rapid sequence evolution of the region of the gene that encodes the active toxin.
venom peptides; accelerated evolution; Conidae; Turridae
The taxonomy of the genus Turris
Batsch, 1789, type genus of the family Turridae, widespread in shallow-water habitats of tropic Indo-Pacific, is revised. A total of 31 species of Turris, are here recognized as valid. New species described: Turris chaldaea, Turris clausifossata, Turris guidopoppei, Turris intercancellata, Turris kantori, T. kathiewayae. Homonym renamed: Turris bipartita nom. nov. for Pleurotoma variegata
Kiener, 1839 (non Philippi, 1836). New synonymies: Turris ankaramanyensis
Bozzetti, 2006 = Turris tanyspira
Kilburn, 1975; Turris imperfecti, T. nobilis, T. pulchra and T. tornatum
Röding, 1798, and Turris assyria
Olivera, Seronay & Fedosov, 2010 = T. babylonia; Turris dollyi
Olivera, 2000 = Pleurotoma crispa
Lamarck, 1816; Turris totiphyllis
Olivera, 2000 = Turris hidalgoi
Vera-Peláez, Vega-Luz & Lozano-Francisco, 2000; Turris kilburni
Vera-Peláez, Vega-Luz & Lozano-Francisco, 2000 = Turris pagasa
Olivera, 2000; Turris (Annulaturris) munizi
Vera-Peláez, Vega-Luz & Lozano-Francisco, 2000 = Gemmula lululimi
Olivera, 2000. Revised status: Turris intricata
Powell, 1964, Pleurotoma variegata Kiener, 1839 (non Philippi, 1836) and Pleurotoma yeddoensis Jousseaume, 1883, are regarded as full species (not subspecies of Turris crispa). Neotype designated: For Pleurotoma garnonsii
Reeve, 1843, to distinguish it from Turris garnonsii of recent authors, type locality emended to Zanzibar. New combination: Turris orthopleura
Kilburn, 1983, is transferred to genus Makiyamaia, family Clavatulidae.
Taxonomy; Turris; Indo-West Pacific; new species; new synonymies; new combinations
In cysteine-rich peptides, diselenides can be used as a proxy for disulfide bridges, since the energetic preference for diselenide bonding over mixed selenium-sulfur bonds simplifies folding. Herein we report that an intramolecular diselenide bond efficiently catalyzes the oxidative folding of selenopeptide analogs of conotoxins, and serves as a reagentless method to substantially accelerate formation of various native disulfide bridging patterns.
Diselenide; oxidative folding; kinetics; conotoxin; selenopeptide
Conotoxins comprise a large group of peptidic neurotoxins that employ diverse disulfide-rich scaffolds. Each scaffold is determined by an evolutionarily conserved pattern of cysteine residues. Although many structure-activity relationship studies confirm the functional and structural importance of disulfide crosslinks, there is growing evidence that not all disulfide bridges are critical in maintaining activities of conotoxins. To answer the fundamental biological question of what the role of non-critical disulfide bridges is, we investigated function and folding of disulfide-depleted analogs of ω-conotoxin GVIA (GVIA) that belongs to an inhibitory cystine knot (ICK) motif family and blocks N-type calcium channels. Removal of a non-critical Cys1–Cys16 disulfide bridge in GVIA or its selenopeptide analog had, as predicted, rather minimal effects on the inhibitory activity on calcium channels, as well as on in vivo activity following intracranial administration. However, the disulfide-depleted GVIA exhibited significantly lower folding yields for forming the remaining two native disulfide bridges. The disulfide-depleted selenoconotoxin GVIA analog also folded with significantly lower yields, suggesting that the functionally non-critical disulfide pair plays an important cooperative role in forming the native disulfide scaffold. Taken together, our results suggest that distinct disulfide bridges may be evolutionary preserved by the oxidative folding or/and stabilization of the bioactive conformation of a disulfide-rich scaffold.
disulfide bridges; conotoxins; structure-function; oxidative folding; calcium channels
Two new compounds, peptide-polyketide glycoside totopotensamide A (1) and its aglycone totopotensamide B (2), were isolated from Streptomyces sp. cultivated from the gastropod mollusk, Lienardia totopotens collected in the Philippines. The compounds contain a previously undescribed polyketide component, a novel 2,3-diaminobutyric acid-containing macrolactam, and a new amino acid, 4-chloro-5,7-dihydroxy-6-methylphenylglycine. The application of Marfey’s method to phenylglycine derivatives was explored using quantum mechanical calculations and NMR.
The crassispirids are a large branch of venomous marine gastropods whose venoms have not been investigated previously. We demonstrate that crassispirids comprise a major group of toxoglossate snails in a clade distinct from all turrids whose venoms have been analyzed. The isolation and biochemical definition of the first venom component from any crassispirid is described.
Crassipeptide cce9a from Crassispira cerithina (Anton, 1838) was purified from crude venom by following biological activity elicited in young mice, lethargy and a lack of responsiveness to external stimuli. Using Edman sequencing and mass spectrometry, the purified peptide was shown to be 29 amino acid residues long, with the sequence: GSCGLPCHENRRCGWACYCDDGICKPLRV.
The sequence assignment was verified through the analysis of a cDNA clone encoding the peptide. The peptide was chemically synthesized and folded; the synthetic peptide was biologically active and coelution with the native venom peptide was demonstrated. When injected into mice of various ages, the peptide elicited a striking shift in behavioral phenotype between 14 and 16 days, from lethargy to hyperactivity.
Venom; Neuropharmacology; Developmental change; Crassipeptide; Mollusc
Conus species are characterized by their hyperdiverse toxins, encoded by a few gene superfamilies. Our phylogenies of the genus, based on mitochondrial genes, confirm previous results that C. californicus is highly divergent from all other species. Genetic and biochemical analysis of their venom peptides comprise the fifteen most abundant conopeptides and over 50 mature cDNA transcripts from the venom duct. Although C. californicus venom retains many of the general properties of other Conus species, they share only half of the toxin gene superfamilies found in other Conus species. Thus, in these two lineages, approximately half of the rapidly diversifying gene superfamilies originated after an early Tertiary split. Such results demonstrate that, unlike endogenously acting gene families, these genes are likely to be significantly more restricted in their phylogenetic distribution. In concordance with the evolutionary duistance of C. californicus from other species, there are aspects of prey-capture behavior and prey preferences of this species that diverges significantly from all other Conus.
biodiversity; accelerated evolution; gene superfamilies; cone snail; exogenomics; phylogenetic relationships
Turris babylonia (Linnaeus, 1758) is the designated type species of Turris, the nominate genus of the family Turridae. This species has unusual taxonomic significance, since the family Turridae is a large biodiverse group that has been highly problematic in its taxonomy. In this article, we address the identity of Turris babylonia: molecular data presented here and expanded elsewhere demonstrate that two distinctive varieties with divergent shell morphology, both conventionally assigned to Turris babylonia, are in fact different species. We describe one of the forms as Turris assyria, new species. Thus, specimens previously assigned to Turris babylonia now comprise at least two taxa, Turris babylonia and Turris assyria; it remains possible that each is a multi-species complex. Some of the numerous varieties and morphologically divergent forms in each complex may prove not to be conspecific with the two species, each precisely defined in this work by a specific barcode sequence.
Turrids; type species; taxonomy; venomous molluscs; conoideans; barcode sequences
Puillandre, N. et al. (2010) Genetic divergence and geographic variation in a deep-water cone lineage: molecular and morphological analyses of the Conus orbignyi complex (Mollusca: Conoidea).
The cone snails (family Conidae) are a hyperdiverse lineage of venomous gastropods. Two standard markers, COI and ITS2, were used to define six genetically-divergent groups within a subclade of Conidae that includes Conus orbignyi; each of these was then evaluated based on their shell morphology. We conclude that three forms, previously regarded as subspecies of Conus orbignyi are distinct species, now recognized as Conus orbignyi, Conus elokismenos and Conus coriolisi. In addition, three additional species (Conus pseudorbignyi, Conus joliveti and Conus comatosa) belong to this clade. Some of the proposed species (e.g., Conus elokismenos) are possibly in turn complexes comprising multiple species. Groups such as Conidae illustrate the challenges generally faced in species delimitation in biodiverse lineages. In the case of the Conus orbignyi complex, not only are there definable, genetically divergent lineages, but also considerable geographic variation within each group. Our study suggests that an intensive analysis of multiple specimens within a single locality helps to minimize the confounding effects of geographic variation and can be a useful starting point for circumscribing different species within such a confusing complex.
COI gene; Conidae; ITS2 gene; Phylogeny; Species delimitation
The fish-hunting cone snail, Conus geographus, is the deadliest snail on earth. In the absence of medical intervention, 70% of human stinging cases are fatal. Although, its venom is known to consist of a cocktail of small peptides targeting different ion-channels and receptors, the bulk of its venom constituents, their sites of manufacture, relative abundances and how they function collectively in envenomation has remained unknown.
We have used transcriptome sequencing to systematically elucidate the contents the C. geographus venom duct, dividing it into four segments in order to investigate each segment’s mRNA contents. Three different types of calcium channel (each targeted by unrelated, entirely distinct venom peptides) and at least two different nicotinic receptors appear to be targeted by the venom. Moreover, the most highly expressed venom component is not paralytic, but causes sensory disorientation and is expressed in a different segment of the venom duct from venoms believed to cause sensory disruption. We have also identified several new toxins of interest for pharmaceutical and neuroscience research.
Conus geographus is believed to prey on fish hiding in reef crevices at night. Our data suggest that disorientation of prey is central to its envenomation strategy. Furthermore, venom expression profiles also suggest a sophisticated layering of venom-expression patterns within the venom duct, with disorientating and paralytic venoms expressed in different regions. Thus, our transcriptome analysis provides a new physiological framework for understanding the molecular envenomation strategy of this deadly snail.
Conus geographus; Conotoxins; RNA-seq; Venom duct compartmentalization
New compounds nobilamides A-H and related known compounds A-3302-A and A-3302-B were isolated based upon their suppression of capsaicin-induced calcium uptake in a mouse dorsal root ganglion primary cell culture assay. Two of these compounds, nobilamide B and A-3302-A, were shown to be long-acting antagonists of mouse and human TRPV1 channels, abolishing activity for >1 h after removal of drug presumably via a covalent attachment. Other derivatives also inhibited the TRPV1 channel, albeit with low potency, affording a structure-activity profile to support the proposed mechanism of action. While the activities were modest, we propose a new mechanism of action and a new site of binding for these inhibitors that may spur development of related analogs for treatment of pain.
TRPV1; D-amino acid; depsipeptide
The structure, assembly, and function of the bacterial flagellum involves about 60 different proteins, many of which are selectively secreted via a specific type III secretion system (T3SS) (J. Frye et al., J. Bacteriol. 188:2233–2243, 2006). The T3SS is reported to secrete proteins at rates of up to 10,000 amino acid residues per second. In this work, we showed that the flagellar T3SS of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium could be manipulated to export recombinant nonflagellar proteins through the flagellum and into the surrounding medium. We translationally fused various neuroactive peptides and proteins from snails, spiders, snakes, sea anemone, and bacteria to the flagellar secretion substrate FlgM. We found that all tested peptides of various sizes were secreted via the bacterial flagellar T3SS. We subsequently purified the recombinant μ-conotoxin SIIIA (rSIIIA) from Conus striatus by affinity chromatography and confirmed that T3SS-derived rSIIIA inhibited mammalian voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.2 comparably to chemically synthesized SIIIA.
Manipulation of the flagellar secretion system bypasses the problems of inclusion body formation and cellular degradation that occur during conventional recombinant protein expression. This work serves as a proof of principle for the use of engineered bacterial cells for rapid purification of recombinant neuroactive peptides and proteins by exploiting secretion via the well-characterized flagellar type III secretion system.
Cone snail venoms have yielded pharmacologically-active natural products of exceptional scientific interest. However, cone snails are a small minority of venomous molluscan biodiversity, the vast majority being tiny venomous morphospecies in the family Turridae. A novel method called lumun-lumun opens access to these micromolluscs and their venoms. Old fishing nets are anchored to the sea bottom for a period of 1–6 months and marine biotas rich in small molluscs are established. In a single lumun-lumun community, we found a remarkable gastropod biodiversity (155 morphospecies). Venomous predators belonging to the superfamily Conoidea (36 morphospecies) were the largest group, the majority being micromolluscs in the family Turridae.
We carried out an initial analysis of the most abundant of the turrid morphospecies recovered, Clathurella (Lienardia) cincta (Dunker, 1871). In contrast to all cDNA clones characterized from cone snail venom ducts, one of the C. cincta clones identified encoded two different peptide precursors presumably translated from a single mRNA. The prospect of easily accessing so many different morphospecies of venomous marine snails raises intriguing toxinological possibilities: the 36 conoidean morphospecies in this one net alone have the potential to yield thousands of novel pharmacologically-active compounds.
Marine Biodiversity; turrids; venom peptides
The cone snail Conus pulicarius from the Philippines provides a specific habitat for actinomycetes and other bacteria. A phenotypic screen using primary cultures of mouse dorsal root ganglion neurons revealed that one C. pulicarius associate, Streptomyces sp. CP32, produces a series of natural products that enhance or diminish whole-cell Ca2+ flux. These compounds include known thiazoline compounds and a series of new derivatives, pulicatins A-E (6-10). Individual compounds were shown to bind to a series of human receptors, with selective binding to the human serotonin 5-HT2B receptor. Here, we report the structure elucidation of the new compounds and results of the neurological assays.
The biology, feeding ecology and phylogenetic relationships of marine snails in the family Turridae remain poorly understood. Here we report our study on four deep-water species in the genus Gemmula, a major group in this family. The four species G. speciosa (Reeve 1843), G. sogodensis (Olivera 2005), G. kieneri (Doumet 1940) and G. diomedea (Powell 1964) were collected at five different sites in the Philippines, and their pattern of distribution in the sites, their feeding behaviour as well as their phylogenetic relationships with each other and with other members of the subfamily Turrinae were investigated. The radular morphology (of two Gemmula species) and potential prey (for one Gemmula species) were also examined. Actual feeding observations were also conducted for Gemmula speciosa and compared with two turrids from other genera.
All four Gemmula species showed strikingly different patterns of distribution; each species was found to be relatively much more abundant at one site but not at the other sites. Molecular phylogenetic analysis based on 16S sequences correlated with previously reported 12S sequences and revealed that the four species all belong to a well-supported Gemmula clade within the subfamily Turrinae; and that this clade appeared more closely related to the clades Xenuroturris, Turris and Lophiotoma than to the other clades in the subfamily (i.e., Turridrupa, Unedogemmula and Polystira). Morphological analysis of the radula of both G. speciosa and G. sogodensis revealed that the radulae of the two species were similar but differed from the other turrids, Lophiotoma acuta and Unedogemmula bisaya, by the absence of central teeth, consistent with the separation of the Gemmula clade from the Lophiotoma and Unedogemmula clade.
To identify the polychaete group that is targeted as prey by species of Gemmula, analysis of regurgitated food fragments was made; phylogenetic analysis of an mtCOI gene fragment that was PCR-amplified from the regurgitated tissue of one specimen (G. diomedea) indicated close affinity of the prey to the terebellid polychaete Amphitritides. Specimens of Gemmula speciosa, when challenged with the terebellid polychaete Loimia sp., were observed to attack the worm suggesting that Gemmula species feed on terebellid polychaetes. Lophiotoma acuta were also observed to feed on the same species of terebellid but were usually group-feeding in contrast to the solitary feeding of G. speciosa. Unedogemmula bisaya did not feed on the terebellid which also supports the separation of the Gemmula and Unedogemmula clade.
Two lines of proof (i.e. the molecular phylogenetic analysis and the feeding challenge) supporting the toxin homology findings previously reported, provide consistent evidence that Gemmula is a distinct clade of worm-hunting Turrinae that feeds on Terebellidae.
Six novel peptides from the piscivorous cone snail, Conus parius were purified by reverse-phase HPLC fractionation of crude venom. With the use of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry and standard Edman sequencing methods, the peptides were characterized. Two peptides were identified as members of the m-2 and m-4 branches of the M-superfamily and were designated as pr3a and pr3b, while four peptides were identified as members of the O-superfamily and were designated as pr6a, pr6b, pr6c and pr6d.
Peptide pr3a differs from the majority of the M-superfamily peptides in the presence of two prolines, which are not modified to 4-trans-hydroxyproline. In peptide pr3b, five amino acids out of the 16 non-cysteine residues are identical with those of μ-GIII and μ-PIIIA, suggesting that pr3b may be a divergent μ-conotoxin. Peptide pr6a is notable because of its extreme hydrophobicity. Peptide pr6c has three prolines that are unhydroxylated. Peptides pr6b and pr6d differ from the previously characterized O-superfamily peptides in the presence of an extended N-terminus consisting of six amino acids. Peptides pr3a, pr3b, pr6a and pr6b were demonstrated to be biologically active when injected intraperitoneally in fish. The identification and characterization of these peptides in venom of a fish-hunting species establish the divergence of gene products and their patterns of post-translational modification within superfamilies in a single Conus species.
Conus parius peptide; M-superfamily conotoxin; O-superfamily conotoxin; conopeptide gene superfamily
A remarkable diversity of venom peptides is expressed in the genus Conus (known as “conotoxins” or “conopeptides”). Between 50 and 200 different venom peptides can be found in a single Conus species, each having its own complement of peptides. Conopeptides are encoded by a few gene superfamilies; here we analyze the evolution of the A-superfamily in a fish-hunting species clade, Pionoconus. More than 90 conopeptide sequences from 11 different Conus species were used to build a phylogenetic tree. Comparison with a species tree based on standard genes reveals multiple gene duplication events, some of which took place before the Pionoconus radiation. By analysing several A-conopeptides from other Conus species recorded in GenBank, we date the major duplication events after the divergence between fish-hunting and non-fish-hunting species. Furthermore, likelihood approaches revealed strong positive selection; the magnitude depends on which A-conopeptide lineage and amino-acid locus is analyzed. The four major A-conopeptide clades defined are consistent with the current division of the superfamily into families and subfamilies based on the Cys pattern. The function of three of these clades (the κA-family, the α4/7-subfamily, and α3/5-subfamily) has previously been characterized. The function of the remaining clade, corresponding to the α4/4-subfamily, has not been elucidated. This subfamily is also found in several other fish-hunting species clades within Conus. The analysis revealed a surprisingly diverse origin of α4/4 conopeptides from a single species, Conus bullatus. This phylogenetic approach that defines different genetic lineages of Conus venom peptides provides a guidepost for identifying conopeptides with potentially novel functions.
Duplication; Conus; Positive selection; A-superfamily conotoxin; Concerted discovery; Molecular phylogeny
The possibility of independently manipulating the affinity and efficacy of pore-blocking ligands of sodium channels is of interest for the development of new drugs for the treatment of pain. The analgesic µ-conotoxin KIIIA, a 16-residue peptide with three disulfide bridges, is a pore-blocker of voltage-gated sodium channels, including the neuronal subtype NaV1.2 (Kd of 5 nM). At saturating concentrations, µ-KIIIA incompletely blocks the sodium current of NaV1.2, leaving a 5% residual current (rINa). Lys7 is an important residue: the mutation K7A decreases both the efficacy (i.e., increases rINa to 23%) and the affinity of the peptide (Kd, 115 nM). In this report, various replacements of residue 7 were examined to determine whether affinity and efficacy were inexorably linked. Because of their facile chemical synthesis, KIIIA analogs were used that had as a core structure the disulfide-depleted KIIIA[C1A,C2U,C9A,C5U] (where U is selenocysteine) or ddKIIIA. The analogs ddKIIIA and ddKIIIA[K7X], where X represents one of nine different amino acids, were tested on voltage-clamped Xenopus oocytes expressing rat NaV1.2 or NaV1.4. Their affinities ranged from 0.01 to 36 µM and rINa's from 2 to 42%, and these two variables appeared uncorrelated. Instead, rINa varied inversely with side chain size, and remarkably charge and hydrophobicity appeared inconsequential. The ability to manipulate a µ-conopeptide's affinity and efficacy, as well as its capacity to interfere with subsequent tetrodotoxin-binding, greatly expands its scope as a reagent to probe sodium channel structure and function, and may also lead to the development of µ-conotoxins as safe analgesics.
Despite the therapeutic promise of disulfide-rich, peptidic natural products, their discovery and structure/function studies have been hampered by inefficient oxidative folding methods for their synthesis. Here we report that converting the three disulfide-bridged μ-conopeptide KIIIA into a disulfide-depleted selenoconopeptide (by removal of a noncritical disulfide bridge and substitution of a disulfide- with a diselenide-bridge) dramatically simplified its oxidative folding while preserving the peptide’s ability to block voltage-gated sodium channels. The simplicity of synthesizing disulfide-depleted selenopeptide analogs containing a single disulfide bridge allowed rapid positional scanning at Lys7 of μ-KIIIA, resulting in the identification of K7L as a mutation that improved the peptide’s selectivity in blocking a neuronal (Nav1.2) over a muscle (Nav1.4) subtype of sodium channel. The disulfide-depleted selenopeptide strategy offers regioselective folding compatible with high throughput chemical synthesis and on-resin oxidation methods, and thus shows great promise to accelerate the use of disulfide-rich peptides as research tools and drugs.
conotoxins; diselenide bridges; selenocysteines; oxidative folding; disulfide-rich peptides
We carried out a definition of the species group to which Conus praecellens A. Adams 1854 belongs using a combination of comparative morphological data, molecular phylogeny based on standard genetic markers and toxinological markers. Prior to this work, Conus praecellens was generally postulated to belong to a clade of similarly high-spired, smaller Conusspecies such as Conus pagodus Kiener, 1845, Conus memiae (Habe & Kosuge, 1970) and Conus arcuatus Broderip & Sowerby, 1829. The molecular phylogeny and toxinological data demonstrate that these prior hypotheses are incorrect, and that instead, Conus praecellens is in a branch of Conus that includes Conus stupa (Kuroda, 1956), Conus stupella (Kuroda, 1956), Conus acutangulus Lamark, 1810 and surprisingly, some species that are morphologically strikingly different, Conus mitratus Sowerby, 1870 and Conus cylindraceus Broderip & Sowerby, 1830. A more careful analysis of the morphologically diverse forms assigned to Conus praecellens suggests that from the Philippine material alone, there are at least three additional undescribed species, Conus andremenezi, Conus miniexcelsus and Conus rizali. A reevaluation of protoconch/early teleoconch morphology also strongly suggests that Conus excelsus Sowerby III, 1908 is related to these species. Together, the different data suggest a clade including the 10 species above that we designate, the Turriconus (Shikama and Habe, 1968) (clade; there are additional distinctive forms within the clade that may be separable at the species level. The phylogenetic definition using the multidisciplinary approach described herein provides a framework for comprehensively investigating biodiverse lineages of animals, such as the cone snails.
Structural and functional studies of small, disulfide-rich peptides depend on their efficient chemical synthesis and folding. A large group of peptides derived from animals and plants contains the Cys pattern: C—C—CC—C—C that forms the inhibitory cystine knot (ICK) or knottin motif. Here we report the effect of site-specific incorporation of pairs of selenocysteine residues on oxidative folding and the functional activity of ω-conotoxin GVIA, a well-characterized ICK-motif peptidic antagonist of voltage-gated calcium channels. Three selenoconotoxin GVIA analogs were chemically synthesized; all three folded significantly faster in the glutathione-based buffer compared to wild-type GVIA. One analog, GVIA[C8U,C19U], exhibited significantly higher folding yields. A recently described NMR-based method was used for mapping the disulfide connectivities in the three selenoconotoxin analogs. The diselenide-directed oxidative folding of selenoconotoxins was predominantly driven by amino acid residue loop sizes formed by the resulting diselenide and disulfide crosslinks. Both in vivo and in vitro activities of the analogs were assessed; block of N-type calcium channels was comparable among the analogs and wild-type GVIA, suggesting that the diselenide replacement did not affect the bioactive conformation. Thus, diselenide substitution may facilitate oxidative folding of pharmacologically diverse ICK peptides. The diselenide replacement has been successfully applied to a growing number of bioactive peptides, including α-, µ- and ω- conotoxins, suggesting that the integrated oxidative folding of selenopeptides described here may prove to be a general approach for efficient synthesis of diverse classes of disulfide-rich peptides.
The venomous marine gastropods, cone snails (genus Conus), inject prey with a lethal cocktail of conopeptides, small cysteine-rich peptides, each with a high affinity for its molecular target, generally an ion channel, receptor or transporter. Over the last decade, conopeptides have proven indispensable reagents for the study of vertebrate neurotransmission. Conus bullatus belongs to a clade of Conus species called Textilia, whose pharmacology is still poorly characterized. Thus the genomics analyses presented here provide the first step toward a better understanding the enigmatic Textilia clade.
We have carried out a sequencing survey of the Conus bullatus genome and venom-duct transcriptome. We find that conopeptides are highly expressed within the venom-duct, and describe an in silico pipeline for their discovery and characterization using RNA-seq data. We have also carried out low-coverage shotgun sequencing of the genome, and have used these data to determine its size, genome-wide base composition, simple repeat, and mobile element densities.
Our results provide the first global view of venom-duct transcription in any cone snail. A notable feature of Conus bullatus venoms is the breadth of A-superfamily peptides expressed in the venom duct, which are unprecedented in their structural diversity. We also find SNP rates within conopeptides are higher compared to the remainder of C. bullatus transcriptome, consistent with the hypothesis that conopeptides are under diversifying selection.
Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is the quintessential ligand of voltage-gated sodium channels (NaVs). Like TTX, μ-conotoxin peptides are pore blockers, and both toxins have helped to define the properties of neurotoxin receptor Site 1 of NaVs. Here, we report unexpected results showing that the recently discovered μ-conotoxin KIIIA and TTX can simultaneously bind to Site 1 and act in concert. Results with saturating concentrations of peptide applied to voltage-clamped Xenopus oocytes expressing brain NaV1.2, and single-channel recordings from brain channels in lipid bilayers, show that KIIIA or its analog, KIIIA[K7A], block partially, with a residual current that can be completely blocked by TTX. In addition, the kinetics of block by TTX and peptide are each affected by the prior presence of the other toxin. For example, bound peptide slows subsequent binding of TTX (an antagonistic interaction) and slows TTX dissociation when both toxins are bound (a synergistic effect on block). The overall functional consequence resulting from the combined action of the toxins depends on the quantitative balance between these opposing actions. The results lead us to postulate that in the bi-liganded NaV complex, TTX is bound between the peptide and the selectivity filter. These observations refine our view of Site 1 and open new possibilities in NaV pharmacology.
conotoxin; contratoxin; NaV1.2; oocyte; sodium channel; site 1; syntoxin; tetrodotoxin; voltage clamp
The peptides in the venoms of predatory marine snails belonging to the genus Conus (‘cone snails’) have well-established therapeutic applications for the treatment of pain and epilepsy. This review discusses the neuroprotective and cardioprotective potential of four families of Conus peptides (conopeptides), including ω-conotoxins that target voltage-gated Ca2+ channels, conantokins that target NMDA receptors, μ-conotoxins that target voltage-gated Na+ channels, and κ- and κM-conotoxins that target K+ channels. The diversity of Conus peptides that have already been shown to exhibit neuroprotective/cardioprotective activity suggests that marine snail venoms are a potentially rich source of drug leads with diverse mechanisms.
conopeptide; conotoxin; neuroprotection; cardioprotection; analgesic