Distinct functional site in Ω-neurotoxins: novel antagonists of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors from snake venom
Snake venom α-neurotoxins from the three-finger toxin (3FTx) family are competitive antagonists with nanomolar affinity and high selectivity for nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR). Here, we report the characterization of a new group of competitive nAChR antagonists: ω-neurotoxins. Although they belong to the 3FTx family, the characteristic functional residues of α-neurotoxins are not conserved. We evaluated the subtype specificity and structure-function relationships of Oh9-1, an ω-neurotoxin from Ophiophagus hannah venom. Recombinant Oh9-1 showed reversible postsynaptic neurotoxicity in the micromolar range. Experiments with different nAChR subtypes expressed in Xenopus oocytes indicated Oh9-1 is selective for rat muscle type α1β1εδ (adult) and α1β1γδ (fetal) and rat neuronal α3β2 subtypes. However, Oh9-1 showed low or no affinity for other human and rat neuronal subtypes. Twelve individual alanine-scan mutants encompassing all three loops of Oh9-1 were evaluated for binding to α1β1εδ and α3β2 subtypes. Oh9-1s loop-II residues (M25, F27) were the most critical for interactions and formed the common binding core. Mutations at T23 and F26 caused a significant loss in activity at α1β1εδ receptors but had no effect on the interaction with the α3β2 subtype. Similarly, mutations at loop-II (H7, K22, H30) and -III (K45) of Oh9-1 had a distinctly different impact on its activity with these subtypes. Thus, Oh9-1 interacts with these nAChRs via distinct residues. Unlike α-neurotoxins, the tip of loop-II is not involved. We reveal a novel mode of interaction, where both sides of the β-strand of Oh9-1s loop-II interact with α1β1εδ, but only one side interacts with α3β2. Phylogenetic analysis revealed functional organization of the ω-neurotoxins independent of α-neurotoxins. Thus, ω-neurotoxin: Oh9-1 may be a new, structurally distinct class of 3FTxs that, like α-neurotoxins, antagonize nAChRs. However, Oh9-1 binds to the ACh binding pocket via a different set of functional residues.