Structure and function of δ-atracotoxins: Lethal neurotoxins targeting the voltage-gated sodium channel

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Toxicon, 2004, 43 (5), pp. 587 - 599
Issue Date:
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δ-Atracotoxins (δ-ACTX), isolated from the venom of Australian funnel-web spiders, are responsible for the potentially lethal envenomation syndrome seen following funnel-web spider envenomation. They are 42-residue polypeptides with four disulfides and an 'inhibitor cystine-knot' motif with structural but not sequence homology to a variety of other spider and marine snail toxins. δ-Atracotoxins induce spontaneous repetitive firing and prolongation of action potentials resulting in neurotransmitter release from somatic and autonomic nerve endings. This results from a slowing of voltage-gated sodium channel inactivation and a hyperpolarizing shift of the voltage-dependence of activation. This action is due to voltage-dependent binding to neurotoxin receptor site-3 in a similar, but not identical, fashion to scorpion α-toxins and sea anemone toxins. Unlike other site-3 neurotoxins, however, δ-ACTX bind with high affinity to both cockroach and mammalian sodium channels but low affinity to locust sodium channels. At present the pharmacophore of δ-ACTX is unknown but is believed to involve a number of basic residues distributed in a topologically similar manner to scorpion α-toxins and sea anemone toxins despite distinctly different protein scaffolds. As such, δ-ACTX provide us with specific tools with which to study sodium channel structure and function and determinants for phyla- and tissue-specific actions of neurotoxins interacting with site-3. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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