Structures of μO-conotoxins from Conus marmoreus: Inhibitors of tetrodotoxin (TTX)-sensitive and TTX-resistant sodium channels in mammalian sensory neurons
The μO-conotoxins are an intriguing class of conotoxins targeting various voltage-dependent sodium channels and molluscan calcium channels. In the current study, we have shown MrVIA and MrVIB to be the first known peptidic inhibitors of the transient tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-R) Na+ current in rat dorsal root ganglion neurons, in addition to inhibiting tetrodoxin-sensitive Na+ currents. Human TTX-R sodium channels are a therapeutic target for indications such as pain, highlighting the importance of the μO-conotoxins as potential leads for drug development. Furthermore, we have used NMR spectroscopy to provide the first structural information on this class of conotoxins. MrVIA and MrVIB are hydrophobic peptides that aggregate in aqueous solution but were solubilized in 50% acetonitrile/water. The three-dimensional structure of MrVIB consists of a small β-sheet and a cystine knot arrangement of the three-disulfide bonds. It contains four backbone "loops" between successive cysteine residues that are exposed to the solvent to varying degrees. The largest of these, loop 2, is the most disordered part of the molecule, most likely due to flexibility in solution. This disorder is the most striking difference between the structures of MrVIB and the known δ- and ω-conotoxins, which along with the μO-conotoxins are members of the O superfamily. Loop 2 of ω-conotoxins has previously been shown to contain residues critical for binding to voltage-gated calcium channels, and it is interesting to speculate that the flexibility observed in MrVIB may accommodate binding to both sodium and molluscan calcium channels.