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1.  Sample Limited Characterization of a Novel Disulfide-Rich Venom Peptide Toxin from Terebrid Marine Snail Terebra variegata 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94122.
Disulfide-rich peptide toxins found in the secretions of venomous organisms such as snakes, spiders, scorpions, leeches, and marine snails are highly efficient and effective tools for novel therapeutic drug development. Venom peptide toxins have been used extensively to characterize ion channels in the nervous system and platelet aggregation in haemostatic systems. A significant hurdle in characterizing disulfide-rich peptide toxins from venomous animals is obtaining significant quantities needed for sequence and structural analyses. Presented here is a strategy for the structural characterization of venom peptide toxins from sample limited (4 ng) specimens via direct mass spectrometry sequencing, chemical synthesis and NMR structure elucidation. Using this integrated approach, venom peptide Tv1 from Terebra variegata was discovered. Tv1 displays a unique fold not witnessed in prior snail neuropeptides. The novel structural features found for Tv1 suggest that the terebrid pool of peptide toxins may target different neuronal agents with varying specificities compared to previously characterized snail neuropeptides.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094122
PMCID: PMC3979744  PMID: 24713808
2.  The Terebridae and teretoxins: Combining phylogeny and anatomy for concerted discovery of bioactive compounds 
BMC Chemical Biology  2010;10:7.
The Conoidea superfamily, comprised of cone snails, terebrids, and turrids, is an exceptionally promising group for the discovery of natural peptide toxins. The potential of conoidean toxins has been realized with the distribution of the first Conus (cone snail) drug, Prialt (ziconotide), an analgesic used to alleviate chronic pain in HIV and cancer patients. Cone snail toxins (conotoxins) are highly variable, a consequence of a high mutation rate associated to duplication events and positive selection. As Conus and terebrids diverged in the early Paleocene, the toxins from terebrids (teretoxins) may demonstrate highly divergent and unique functionalities. Recent analyses of the Terebridae, a largely distributed family with more than 300 described species, indicate they have evolutionary and pharmacological potential. Based on a three gene (COI, 12S and 16S) molecular phylogeny, including ~50 species from the West-Pacific, five main terebrid lineages were discriminated: two of these lineages independently lost their venom apparatus, and one venomous lineage was previously unknown. Knowing the phylogenetic relationships within the Terebridae aids in effectively targeting divergent lineages with novel peptide toxins. Preliminary results indicate that teretoxins are similar in structure and composition to conotoxins, suggesting teretoxins are an attractive line of research to discover and develop new therapeutics that target ion channels and receptors. Using conotoxins as a guideline, and innovative natural products discovery strategies, such as the Concerted Discovery Strategy, the potential of the Terebridae and their toxins are explored as a pioneering pharmacological resource.
doi:10.1186/1472-6769-10-7
PMCID: PMC2954879  PMID: 20849634
3.  Pruning Nature: Biodiversity-Derived Discovery of Novel Sodium Channel Blocking Conotoxins from Conus bullatus 
Described herein is a general approach to identify novel compounds using the biodiversity of a megadiverse group of animals; specifically, the phylogenetic lineage of the venomous gastropods that belong to the genus Conus (“cone snails”). Cone snail biodiversity was exploited to identify three new μ-conotoxins, BuIIIA, BuIIIB and BuIIIC, encoded by the fish-hunting species Conus bullatus. BuIIIA, BuIIIB and BuIIIC are strikingly divergent in their amino acid composition compared to previous μ-conotoxins known to target the voltage-gated Na channel skeletal muscle subtype Nav1.4. Our preliminary results indicate that BuIIIB and BuIIIC are potent inhibitors of Nav1.4 (average block ~96%, at a 1 μM concentration of peptide), displaying a very slow off-rate not seen in previously characterized μ-conotoxins that block Nav1.4. In addition, the three new Conus bullatus μ-conopeptides help to define a new branch of the M-superfamily of conotoxins, namely M-5. The exogene strategy used to discover these Na channel-inhibiting peptides was based on both understanding the phylogeny of Conus, as well as the molecular genetics of venom μ-conotoxin peptides previously shown to generally target voltage-gated Na channels. The discovery of BuIIIA, BuIIIB and BuIIIC Na channel blockers expands the diversity of ligands useful in determining the structure-activity relationship of voltage-gated sodium channels.
doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2008.10.017
PMCID: PMC2677393  PMID: 18950653
Biodiversity-derived compounds; Sodium channel ligands; exogenes
4.  Correlating Molecular Phylogeny with Venom Apparatus Occurrence in Panamic Auger Snails (Terebridae) 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7667.
Central to the discovery of neuroactive compounds produced by predatory marine snails of the superfamily Conoidea (cone snails, terebrids, and turrids) is identifying those species with a venom apparatus. Previous analyses of western Pacific terebrid specimens has shown that some Terebridae groups have secondarily lost their venom apparatus. In order to efficiently characterize terebrid toxins, it is essential to devise a key for identifying which species have a venom apparatus. The findings presented here integrate molecular phylogeny and the evolution of character traits to infer the presence or absence of the venom apparatus in the Terebridae. Using a combined dataset of 156 western and 33 eastern Pacific terebrid samples, a phylogenetic tree was constructed based on analyses of 16S, COI and 12S mitochondrial genes. The 33 eastern Pacific specimens analyzed represent four different species: Acus strigatus, Terebra argyosia, T. ornata, and T. cf. formosa. Anatomical analysis was congruent with molecular characters, confirming that species included in the clade Acus do not have a venom apparatus, while those in the clade Terebra do. Discovery of the association between terebrid molecular phylogeny and the occurrence of a venom apparatus provides a useful tool for effectively identifying the terebrid lineages that may be investigated for novel pharmacological active neurotoxins, enhancing conservation of this important resource, while providing supplementary information towards understanding terebrid evolutionary diversification.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007667
PMCID: PMC2766622  PMID: 19890382
5.  Manipulating Neuronal Circuits with Endogenous and Recombinant Cell-Surface Tethered Modulators 
Neuronal circuits depend on the precise regulation of cell-surface receptors and ion channels. An ongoing challenge in neuroscience research is deciphering the functional contribution of specific receptors and ion channels using engineered modulators. A novel strategy, termed “tethered toxins”, was recently developed to characterize neuronal circuits using the evolutionary derived selectivity of venom peptide toxins and endogenous peptide ligands, such as lynx1 prototoxins. Herein, the discovery and engineering of cell-surface tethered peptides is reviewed, with particular attention given to their cell-autonomy, modular composition, and genetic targeting in different model organisms. The relative ease with which tethered peptides can be engineered, coupled with the increasing number of neuroactive venom toxins and ligand peptides being discovered, imply a multitude of potentially innovative applications for manipulating neuronal circuits and tissue-specific cell networks, including treatment of disorders caused by malfunction of receptors and ion channels.
doi:10.3389/neuro.02.021.2009
PMCID: PMC2776481  PMID: 19915728
tethered-toxins; cell-surface modulators; lynx1; receptors; ion channels
6.  Evolution of the Toxoglossa Venom Apparatus as Inferred by Molecular Phylogeny of the Terebridae 
Toxoglossate marine gastropods, traditionally assigned to the families Conidae, Terebridae, and Turridae, are one of the most populous animal groups that use venom to capture their prey. These marine animals are generally characterized by a venom apparatus that consists of a muscular venom bulb and a tubular venom gland. The toxoglossan radula, often compared with a hypodermic needle for its use as a conduit to inject toxins into prey, is considered a major anatomical breakthrough that assisted in the successful initial radiation of these animals in the Cretaceous and early Tertiary. The pharmacological success of toxins from cone snails has made this group a star among biochemists and neuroscientists, but very little is known about toxins from the other Toxoglossa, and the phylogeny of these families is largely in doubt. Here we report the first molecular phylogeny for the Terebridae and use the results to infer the evolution of the venom apparatus for this group. Our findings indicate that most of the genera of terebrids are polyphyletic, and one species (“Terebra” (s.l.) jungi) is the sister group to all other terebrids. Molecular analyses combined with mapping of venom apparatus morphology indicate that the Terebridae have lost the venom apparatus at least twice during their evolution. Species in the genera Terebra and Hastula have the typical venom apparatus found in most toxoglossate gastropods, but all other terebrid species do not. For venomous organisms, the dual analysis of molecular phylogeny and toxin function is an instructive combination for unraveling the larger questions of phylogeny and speciation. The results presented here suggest a paradigm shift in the current understanding of terebrid evolution, while presenting a road map for discovering novel terebrid toxins, a largely unexplored resource for biomedical research and potential therapeutic drug development.
doi:10.1093/molbev/msn211
PMCID: PMC2639078  PMID: 18840603
Toxoglossa evolution; Terebridae phylogeny; venomous marine snails; peptide toxins; venom apparatus

Results 1-6 (6)