Lethal effects of an insecticidal spider venom peptide involve positive allosteric modulation of insect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Neuropharmacology, 2017, 127 pp. 224 - 242
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© 2017 Elsevier Ltd κ-Hexatoxins (κ-HXTXs) are a family of excitotoxic insect-selective neurotoxins from Australian funnel-web spiders that are lethal to a wide range of insects, but display no toxicity towards vertebrates. The prototypic κ-HXTX-Hv1c selectively blocks native and expressed cockroach large-conductance calcium-activated potassium (BK Ca or K Ca 1.1) channels, but not their mammalian orthologs. Despite this potent and selective action on insect K Ca 1.1 channels, we found that the classical K Ca 1.1 blockers paxilline, charybdotoxin and iberiotoxin, which all block insect K Ca 1.1 channels, are not lethal in crickets. We therefore used whole-cell patch-clamp analysis of cockroach dorsal unpaired median (DUM) neurons to study the effects of κ-HXTX-Hv1c on sodium-activated (K Na ), delayed-rectifier (K DR ) and ‘A-type’ transient (K A ) K + channels. 1 μM κ-HXTX-Hv1c failed to significantly inhibit cockroach K Na and K DR channels, but did cause a 30 ± 7% saturating inhibition of K A channel currents, possibly via a Kv4 (Shal-like) action. However, this modest action at such a high concentration of κ-HXTX-Hv1c would indicate a different lethal target. Accordingly, we assessed the actions of κ-HXTX-Hv1c on neurotransmitter-gated ion channels in cockroach DUM neurons. We found that κ-HXTX-Hv1c failed to produce any major effects on GABA A or glutamate-Cl receptors but dramatically slowed nicotine-evoked ACh receptor (nAChR) current decay and reversed nAChR desensitization. These actions occurred without any alterations to nAChR current amplitude or the nicotine concentration-response curve, and are consistent with a positive allosteric modulation of nAChRs. κ-HXTX-Hv1c therefore represents the first venom peptide that selectively modulates insect nAChRs with a mode of action similar to the excitotoxic insecticide spinosyn A. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled ‘Venom-derived Peptides as Pharmacological Tools.’
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