Determination of the α-conotoxin Vc1.1 binding site on the α9α10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor
α-Conotoxin Vc1.1 specifically and potently inhibits the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtype α9α10 (α9α10 nAChR) and is a potential novel treatment for neuropathic pain. Here, we used a combination of computational modeling and electrophysiology experiments to determine the Vc1.1 binding site on the α9α10 nAChR. Interactions of Vc1.1 with two probable binding sites, α9α10 and α10α9, were modeled. Mutational energies calculated by assuming specific interactions in the α10α9 binding site correlated better with electrophysiological recordings than those assuming interactions with the α9α10 binding site. Two novel Vc1.1 analogues, [N9F]Vc1.1 and [N9W]Vc1.1, were predicted to have large differences in affinity between the two binding sites. Data from functional studies were consistent with computational predictions that assumed preferred binding of Vc1.1 to the α10α9 pocket. Moreover, our modeling study suggested that a single hydrogen bond formed between Vc1.1 and position 59 of the α10α9 pocket confers specificity to rat versus human α9α10 nAChRs.