Inhibition of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes by α-conotoxin GID and analogues
α-Conotoxins are small disulfide-rich peptides from the venom of the Conus species that target the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR). They are valuable pharmacological tools and also have potential therapeutic applications particularly for the treatment of chronic pain. α-Conotoxin GID is isolated from the venom of Conus geographus and has an unusual N-terminal tail sequence that has been shown to be important for binding to the α4β2 subtype of the nAChR. To date, only four conotoxins that inhibit the α4β2 subtype have been characterized but they are of considerable interest as it is the most abundant nAChR subtype in the mammalian brain and has been implicated in a range of diseases. In this study, analysis of alanine-scan and truncation mutants of GID reveals that a conserved proline in α-conotoxins is important for activity at the α7, α3β2, and α4β2 subtypes. Although the proline residue was the Most critical residue for activity at the α3β2 subtype, Asp3, Arg12 and Asn14 are also critical at the α7 subtype. Interestingly, very few of the mutations tested retained activity at the α4β2 subtype indicating a tightly defined binding site. This lack of tolerance to sequence variation may explain the lack of selective ligands discovered for the α4β2 subtype to date. Overall, our findings contribute to the understanding of the structure-activity relationships of α-conotoxins and may be beneficial for the ongoing attempts to exploit modulators of the neuronal nAChRs as therapeutic agents.