a-Conotoxins are small disulfide rich peptides from the venoms of marine cone snails. They target specific nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subtypes with high affinity and potency and are therefore valuable as neuropharmacological probes and potential drug leads. This article gives a general overview of the chemical and biological features of a-conotoxins, including their pharmacology, binding interactions and structure. A detailed analysis of recently reported three-dimensional structures from members of different subfamilies of the a-conotoxins, including those with 3/5, 4/3, 4/6 and 4/7 spacings of their two intracysteine loops is given. The structures are generally well defined and represent useful frameworks for the display of amino acid residues to target molecules.
Keywords: conotoxins, Nicotinic Acetylcholine, potential drug leads, ligands gated, autoimmune disease, nuclear magnetic, intra cystein resdues, ACh evoked currents
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