Venomous animals produce a diverse range of peptides and small molecules that are of both therapeutic and pharmacologic value. One such animal, the cone snail, produces peptides known as conotoxins, which may be of interest to those studying the mammalian immune system. Conotoxins are a family of venom peptides that display extraordinary diversity and often exquisite specificity for membrane protein targets, especially voltage and ligand activated ion channels. Conopeptides are proving to be important pharmacological tools to probe human physiology, with some showing promise as therapeutics for conditions such as neuropathic pain. The potential of these peptides to interact and modulate the human immune system has not been investigated despite literature suggesting that conotoxins could be valuable research tools and potential therapeutics in the area of immunology. Known pharmacological targets of conopeptides expressed by immunocompetent cells include voltage-gated potassium channel (Kv), voltage-gated calcium channel (Cav), nicotinic and acetylcholine receptors. In addition, the 5-HT3, GABAB and NMDA receptors that are not considered classic immunomodulators may play a secondary role in modulating immune responses. This review highlights venom peptides with the potential to act at immunological targets within the mammalian immune system.
Keywords: Cone snail, conotoxin, conus, immune system, N-methyl-D-aspartate, neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, potassium channels, serotonin receptors, Venom Therapy