Conantokins are small peptides (17-27 amino acids) found in the venoms of cone snails (Conus sp.) that inhibit the activity of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Unlike most of the peptides characterized from cone snail venom that contain multiple disulfide bridges, conantokins are linear peptides that possess a high degree of alpha-helicity in the presence of divalent cations, and contain gamma-carboxyglutamic acid residues. Four naturally occurring conantokins have been identified and characterized to date, conantokin-G, conantokin-T, conantokin-R, and conantokin-L. The most extensively characterized, conantokin-G, is selective for subtypes of NMDA receptors containing the NR2B subunit. The conantokins have been synthesized and characterized in a number of animal models of human pathologies including pain, convulsive disorders, stroke, and Parkinsons disease. The potential pharmacological selectivity of the conantokins, coupled with their efficacy in preclinical models of disease and favorable safety profiles indicate that these peptides represent both novel probes for NMDA receptor function as well as an important class of compounds for continued investigation as human therapeutics.
Keywords: conantokin, conotoxin, cone snail, n-methyl-d-aspartate, anticonvulsant, analgesic, neuroprotection, venom
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