Dimerization of α-Conotoxins as a strategy to enhance the inhibition of the human α7 and α9α10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
The affinity of α-conotoxins, a class of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) peptide inhibitors, can be enhanced by dendrimerization. It has been hypothesized that this improvement arose from simultaneous binding of the α-conotoxins to several spatially adjacent sites. We here engineered several α-conotoxin dimers using a linker length compatible between neighboring binding sites on the same receptor. Remarkably, the dimer of α-conotoxin PeIA compared to the monomer displayed an increase in potency by 11-fold (IC50 = 1.9 nM) for the human α9α10 nAChR. The dimerization of α-conotoxin RgIA# resulted in a dual inhibitor that targets both α9α10 and α7 nAChR subtypes with an IC50 = ∼50 nM. The RgIA# dimer is therapeutically interesting because it is the first dual inhibitor that potently and selectively inhibits these two nAChR subtypes, which are both involved in the etiology of several cancers. We propose that the dimerization of α-conotoxins is a simpler and efficient alternative strategy to dendrimers for enhancing the activity of α-conotoxins.