Understanding the interactions between activating or antagonizing ligands and their cognate receptors at a molecular level offers promise for the development of pharmacological therapeutics for CNS disorders. The discovery of novel molecules that are capable of discriminating between the varied molecular subunits or isoforms of ion channels should provide a more detailed understanding of the pathophysiology of many CNS disorders. Abundant natural sources of pharmacologically active agents that demonstrate this refined selectivity and specificity are found in the animal toxins of venomous species including: snakes, spiders and the marine snail of the genus Conus. The uniquely fascinating combinatorial ability of the marine snail, genus Conus to modify the pharmacological properties of these neurotoxins or conopeptides within its venom is depicted throughout this review. The myriad of posttranslational modifications and disulfide bonded architectures that have been identified in the conopeptides, are described with an emphasis on the unique pharmacological properties and receptor target specificities that have been ascribed to each of these modifications. The ability of NMR spectroscopy to provide three-dimensional structural information within the interaction interface for both the ligand and target protein following complex formation and its application to conopeptide drug discovery are discussed. Similarly, the strength of merging NMR spectroscopy data with ab initio “;restrained soft-docking” for rational pharmacophore design and the identification of lead compounds from in silico library screens will also be discussed. The initial phases of this stratagem are illustrated using two toxin antagonists and the recently determined structure of the KcsA potassium channel. These data exemplify the utility of this approach in elucidating important molecular interfaces of specific toxin-receptor / ion channel complexes, which can be further exploited in drug discovery initiatives.
Keywords: cone snail, conopeptide, conotoxin, posttranslationally modified amino acids
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport