In Brazil, Tityus serrulatus (Ts) is the species responsible for most of the scorpion related accidents. Among the Ts toxins, the neurotoxins with action on potassium channels (α-KTx) present high interest, due to their effect in the envenoming process and the ion channel specificity they display. The α-KTx toxins family is the most relevant because its toxins can be used as therapeutic tools for specific target cells. The improved isolation method provided toxins with high resolution, obtaining pure Ts6 and Ts7 in two chromatographic steps. The effects of Ts6 and Ts7 toxins were evaluated in 14 different types of potassium channels using the voltage-clamp technique with two-microelectrodes. Ts6 toxin shows high affinity for Kv1.2, Kv1.3 and Shaker IR, blocking these channels in low concentrations. Moreover, Ts6 blocks the Kv1.3 channel in picomolar concentrations with an IC50 of 0.55 nM and therefore could be of valuable assistance to further designing immunosuppressive therapeutics. Ts7 toxin blocks multiple subtypes channels, showing low selectivity among the channels analyzed. This work also stands out in its attempt to elucidate the residues important for interacting with each channel and, in the near future, to model a desired drug.
Tityus serrulatus; neurotoxins; potassium channels; α-KTx; scorpion venom
Voltage-gated potassium (Kv) and sodium (Nav) channels are key determinants of cellular excitability and serve as targets of neurotoxins. Most marine ciguatoxins potentiate Nav channels and cause ciguatera seafood poisoning. Several ciguatoxins have also been shown to affect Kv channels, and we showed previously that the ladder-shaped polyether toxin gambierol is a potent Kv channel inhibitor. Most likely, gambierol acts via a lipid-exposed binding site, located outside the K+ permeation pathway. However, the mechanism by which gambierol inhibits Kv channels remained unknown. Using gating and ionic current analysis to investigate how gambierol affected S6 gate opening and voltage-sensing domain (VSD) movements, we show that the resting (closed) channel conformation forms the high-affinity state for gambierol. The voltage dependence of activation was shifted by >120 mV in the depolarizing direction, precluding channel opening in the physiological voltage range. The (early) transitions between the resting and the open state were monitored with gating currents, and provided evidence that strong depolarizations allowed VSD movement up to the activated-not-open state. However, for transition to the fully open (ion-conducting) state, the toxin first needed to dissociate. These dissociation kinetics were markedly accelerated in the activated-not-open state, presumably because this state displayed a much lower affinity for gambierol. A tetrameric concatemer with only one high-affinity binding site still displayed high toxin sensitivity, suggesting that interaction with a single binding site prevented the concerted step required for channel opening. We propose a mechanism whereby gambierol anchors the channel’s gating machinery in the resting state, requiring more work from the VSD to open the channel. This mechanism is quite different from the action of classical gating modifier peptides (e.g., hanatoxin). Therefore, polyether toxins open new opportunities in structure–function relationship studies in Kv channels and in drug design to modulate channel function.
Venoms from cone snails (Conidae) have been extensively studied during the last decades, but those from other members of the suborder Toxoglossa, such as of Terebridae and Turridae superfamilies attracted less interest so far. Here, we report the effects of venom and gland extracts from three species of the superfamily Terebridae. By 2-electrode voltage-clamp technique the gland extracts were tested on Xenopus oocytes expressing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) of rat neuronal (α3β2, α3β4, α4β2, α4β4, α7) and muscle subtypes (α1β1γδ), and expressing potassium (Kv1.2 and Kv1.3) and sodium channels (Nav1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6). The extracts were shown to exhibit remarkably high inhibitory activities on almost all nAChRs tested, in particular on the α7 subtype suggesting the presence of peptides of the A-superfamily from the venom of Conus species. In contrast, no effects on the potassium and sodium channels tested were observed. The venoms of terebrid snails may offer an additional source of novel biologically active peptides.
Terebridae venom; gland extracts; acetylcholine receptors; potassium channels; sodium channels
Sea anemone (Cnidaria, Anthozoa) venom is an important source of bioactive compounds used as tools to study the pharmacology and structure-function of voltage-gated K+ channels (KV). These neurotoxins can be divided into four different types, according to their structure and mode of action. In this work, for the first time, two toxins were purified from the venom of Bunodosoma caissarum population from Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago, Brazil. Sequence alignment and phylogenetic analysis reveals that BcsTx1 and BcsTx2 are the newest members of the sea anemone type 1 potassium channel toxins. Their functional characterization was performed by means of a wide electrophysiological screening on 12 different subtypes of KV channels (KV1.1–KV1.6; KV2.1; KV3.1; KV4.2; KV4.3; hERG and Shaker IR). BcsTx1 shows a high affinity for rKv1.2 over rKv1.6, hKv1.3, Shaker IR and rKv1.1, while Bcstx2 potently blocked rKv1.6 over hKv1.3, rKv1.1, Shaker IR and rKv1.2. Furthermore, we also report for the first time a venom composition and biological activity comparison between two geographically distant populations of sea anemones.
sea anemone; Bunodosoma caissarum; neurotoxins; voltage-gated potassium channels; two-electrode voltage-clamp; Xenopus laevis; intraspecific venom variation; Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago
Background: Pentameric ligand-gated ion channels are modulated by general anesthetics.
Results: The crystal structure of ELIC in complex with bromoform reveals anesthetic binding in the channel pore and in novel sites in the transmembrane and extracellular domain.
Conclusion: General anesthetics allosterically modulate channel function via multisite binding.
Significance: Our data reveal detailed insight into multisite recognition of general anesthetics at the structural level.
Pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (pLGICs), such as nicotinic acetylcholine, glycine, γ-aminobutyric acid GABAA/C receptors, and the Gloeobacter violaceus ligand-gated ion channel (GLIC), are receptors that contain multiple allosteric binding sites for a variety of therapeutics, including general anesthetics. Here, we report the x-ray crystal structure of the Erwinia chrysanthemi ligand-gated ion channel (ELIC) in complex with a derivative of chloroform, which reveals important features of anesthetic recognition, involving multiple binding at three different sites. One site is located in the channel pore and equates with a noncompetitive inhibitor site found in many pLGICs. A second transmembrane site is novel and is located in the lower part of the transmembrane domain, at an interface formed between adjacent subunits. A third site is also novel and is located in the extracellular domain in a hydrophobic pocket between the β7–β10 strands. Together, these results extend our understanding of pLGIC modulation and reveal several specific binding interactions that may contribute to modulator recognition, further substantiating a multisite model of allosteric modulation in this family of ion channels.
Anesthesia; Cys-loop Receptors; Ion Channels; Membrane Proteins; X-ray Crystallography; ELIC; Ligand-gated Ion Channels
The primary structure of a new Kunitz-type protease inhibitor InhVJ from the sea anemone Heteractis crispa (Radianthus macrodactylus) was determined by protein sequencing and cDNA cloning. InhVJ amino acid sequence was shown to share high sequence identity (up to 98%) with the other known Kunitz-type sea anemones sequences. It was determined that the P1 Thr at the reactive site resulted in a decrease of the Ki of InhVJ to trypsin and α-chymotrypsin (7.38 × 10−8 M and 9.93 × 10−7 M, respectively). By structure modeling the functional importance of amino acids at the reactive site as well as at the weak contact site were determined. The significant role of Glu45 for the orientation and stabilization of the InhVJ-trypsin complex was elucidated. We can suggest that there has been an adaptive evolution of the P1 residue at the inhibitor reactive site providing specialization or functional diversification of the paralogs. The appearance of a key so-called P1 Thr residue instead of Lys might lead to refinement of inhibitor specificity in the direction of subfamilies of serine proteases. The absence of Kv channel and TRPV1-receptor modulation activity was confirmed by electrophysiological screening tests.
sea anemone; Kunitz-type protease inhibitor; structure; function; channels
Voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) are large transmembrane proteins that conduct sodium ions across the membrane and by doing so they generate signals of communication between many kinds of tissues. They are responsible for the generation and propagation of action potentials in excitable cells, in close collaboration with other channels like potassium channels. Therefore, genetic defects in sodium channel genes can cause a wide variety of diseases, generally called “channelopathies.” The first insights into the mechanism of action potentials and the involvement of sodium channels originated from Hodgkin and Huxley for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1963. These concepts still form the basis for understanding the function of VGSCs. When VGSCs sense a sufficient change in membrane potential, they are activated and consequently generate a massive influx of sodium ions. Immediately after, channels will start to inactivate and currents decrease. In the inactivated state, channels stay refractory for new stimuli and they must return to the closed state before being susceptible to a new depolarization. On the other hand, studies with neurotoxins like tetrodotoxin (TTX) and saxitoxin (STX) also contributed largely to our today’s understanding of the structure and function of ion channels and of VGSCs specifically. Moreover, neurotoxins acting on ion channels turned out to be valuable lead compounds in the development of new drugs for the enormous range of diseases in which ion channels are involved. A recent example of a synthetic neurotoxin that made it to the market is ziconotide (Prialt®, Elan). The original peptide, ω-MVIIA, is derived from the cone snail Conus magus and now FDA/EMA-approved for the management of severe chronic pain by blocking the N-type voltage-gated calcium channels in pain fibers. This review focuses on the current status of research on neurotoxins acting on VGSC, their contribution to further unravel the structure and function of VGSC and their potential as novel lead compounds in drug development.
voltage-gated sodium channel; neurotoxin; binding site
Because of their prominent role in electro-excitability, voltage-gated sodium (NaV) channels have become the foremost important target of animal toxins. These toxins have developed the ability to discriminate between closely related NaV subtypes, making them powerful tools to study NaV channel function and structure. CgNa is a 47-amino acid residue type I toxin isolated from the venom of the Giant Caribbean Sea Anemone Condylactis gigantea. Previous studies showed that this toxin slows the fast inactivation of tetrodotoxin-sensitive NaV currents in rat dorsal root ganglion neurons. To illuminate the underlying NaV subtype-selectivity pattern, we have assayed the effects of CgNa on a broad range of mammalian isoforms (NaV1.2–NaV1.8) expressed in Xenopus oocytes. This study demonstrates that CgNa selectively slows the fast inactivation of rNaV1.3/β1, mNaV1.6/β1 and, to a lesser extent, hNaV1.5/β1, while the other mammalian isoforms remain unaffected. Importantly, CgNa was also examined on the insect sodium channel DmNaV1/tipE, revealing a clear phyla-selectivity in the efficacious actions of the toxin. CgNa strongly inhibits the inactivation of the insect NaV channel, resulting in a dramatic increase in peak current amplitude and complete removal of fast and steady-state inactivation. Together with the previously determined solution structure, the subtype-selective effects revealed in this study make of CgNa an interesting pharmacological probe to investigate the functional role of specific NaV channel subtypes. Moreover, further structural studies could provide important information on the molecular mechanism of NaV channel inactivation.
sea anemone; toxin; inactivation; sodium channel; subtype; selectivity
In this study, we pharmacologically characterized gambierol, a marine polycyclic ether toxin which is produced by the dinoflagellate Gambierdiscus toxicus. Besides several other polycyclic ether toxins like ciguatoxins, this scarcely studied toxin is one of the compounds that may be responsible for ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP). Unfortunately, the biological target(s) that underlies CFP is still partly unknown. Today, ciguatoxins are described to specifically activate voltage-gated sodium channels by interacting with their receptor site 5. But some dispute about the role of gambierol in the CFP story shows up: some describe voltage-gated sodium channels as the target, while others pinpoint voltage-gated potassium channels as targets. Since gambierol was never tested on isolated ion channels before, it was subjected in this work to extensive screening on a panel of 17 ion channels: nine cloned voltage-gated ion channels (mammalian Nav1.1–Nav1.8 and insect Para) and eight cloned voltage-gated potassium channels (mammalian Kv1.1–Kv1.6, hERG and insect ShakerIR) expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes using two-electrode voltage-clamp technique. All tested sodium channel subtypes are insensitive to gambierol concentrations up to 10 μM. In contrast, Kv1.2 is the most sensitive voltage-gated potassium channel subtype with almost full block (>97%) and an half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) of 34.5 nM. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study where the selectivity of gambierol is tested on isolated voltage-gated ion channels. Therefore, these results lead to a better understanding of gambierol and its possible role in CFP and they may also be useful in the development of more effective treatments.
Gambierol; Ciguatera fish poisoning; Voltage-gated potassium channels; Voltage-gated sodium channels
Ciguatera fish poisoning and neurotoxic shellfish poisoning are distinct clinical entities characterized by gastrointestinal and neurological disturbances, following the consumption of certain reef fish and shellfish containing toxic polyether compounds sporadically present in certain toxic marine dinoflagellates. The biotransformation and bioaccumulation of gambierol and brevetoxin, and their congeners, are believed to be involved in the pathogenesis of these “food-chain diseases”, for which no effective treatments are available. Here, we describe for the first time the potent effect of gambierol and brevetoxin on TRPV1 channels, a key player in thermal and pain sensation. Our findings may lead to promising new therapeutic interventions.
Sea anemones produce a myriad of toxic peptides and proteins of which a large group acts on voltage-gated Na+ channels. However, in comparison to other organisms, their venoms and toxins are poorly studied. Most of the known voltage-gated Na+ channel toxins isolated from sea anemone venoms act on neurotoxin receptor site 3 and inhibit the inactivation of these channels. Furthermore, it seems that most of these toxins have a distinct preference for crustaceans. Given the close evolutionary relationship between crustaceans and insects, it is not surprising that sea anemone toxins also profoundly affect insect voltage-gated Na+ channels, which constitutes the scope of this review. For this reason, these peptides can be considered as insecticidal lead compounds in the development of insecticides.
In general, scorpion β-toxins have been well examined. However, few in-depth studies have been devoted to species selectivity and affinity comparisons on the different voltage-activated Na+ channels since they have become available as cloned channels that can be studied in heterologous expression systems. As a result, their classification is largely historical and dates from early in vivo experiments on mice and cockroach and fly larvae.
In this study, we aimed to provide an updated overview of selectivity and affinity of scorpion β-toxins towards voltage-activated Na+ channels of vertebrates or invertebrates. As pharmacological tools, we used the classic β-toxins AaHIT, Css II, Css IV, Css VI and Ts VII and tested them on the neuronal vertebrate voltage-activated Na+ channel, rNav1.2a. For comparison, its invertebrate counterpart, DmNav1, was also tested. Both these channels were expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes and the currents measured with the two-electrode voltage-clamp technique. We supplemented this data with several binding displacement studies on rat brain synaptosomes. The results lead us to propose a general classification and a novel nomenclature of scorpion β-toxins based on pharmacological activity.
scorpion β-toxins; voltage-activated Na+ channels; species-selectivity; Centruroides suffusus suffusus; Androctonus australis Hector
Voltage-gated Na+ channels are integral membrane proteins that function as a gateway for a selective permeation of sodium ions across biological membranes. In this way, they are crucial players for the generation of action potentials in excitable cells. Voltage-gated Na+ channels are encoded by at least nine genes in mammals. The different isoforms have remarkably similar functional properties, but small changes in function and pharmacology are biologically well-defined, as underscored by mutations that cause several diseases and by modulation of a myriad of compounds respectively. This review will stress on the modulation of voltage-gated Na+ channels by scorpion alpha-toxins. Nature has designed these two classes of molecules as if they were predestined to each other: an inevitable ‘encounter’ between a voltage-gated Na+ channel isoform and an alpha-toxin from scorpion venom indeed results in a dramatically changed Na+ current phenotype with clear-cut consequences on electrical excitability and sometimes life or death. This fascinating aspect justifies an overview on scorpion venoms, their alpha-toxins and the Na+ channel targets they are built for, as well as on the molecular determinants that govern the selectivity and affinity of this ‘inseparable duo’.
Cnidarian envenomations cause a burning-pain sensation of which the underlying mechanisms are unknown. Activation of TRPV1, a non-selective cation channel expressed in nociceptive neurons, leads to cell depolarisation and pain. Here, we show in vitro and in vivo evidence for desensitization-dependent TRPV1 activation in cnidarian envenomations. Cnidarian venom induced a nociceptive reactivity, comparable to capsaicin, in laboratory rats, which could be reduced by the selective TRPV1 antagonist, BCTC. These findings are the first to explain at least part of the symptomology of cnidarian envenomations and provide insights into the design of more effective treatments for this global public health problem.
Cnidaria; TRPV1; envenomation; pain; desensitization