Publications by authors named "Roy Kahn"

16 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

The specificity of Av3 sea anemone toxin for arthropods is determined at linker DI/SS2-S6 in the pore module of target sodium channels.

Biochem J 2014 Oct;463(2):271-7

*Department of Plant Molecular Biology & Ecology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.

Av3 is a peptide neurotoxin from the sea anemone Anemonia viridis that shows specificity for arthropod voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs). Interestingly, Av3 competes with a scorpion α-toxin on binding to insect Navs and similarly inhibits the inactivation process, and thus has been classified as 'receptor site-3 toxin', although the two peptides are structurally unrelated. This raises questions as to commonalities and differences in the way both toxins interact with Navs. Recently, site-3 was partly resolved for scorpion α-toxins highlighting S1-S2 and S3-S4 external linkers at the DIV voltage-sensor module and the juxtaposed external linkers at the DI pore module. To uncover channel determinants involved in Av3 specificity for arthropods, the toxin was examined on channel chimaeras constructed with the external linkers of the mammalian brain Nav1.2a, which is insensitive to Av3, in the background of the Drosophila DmNav1. This approach highlighted the role of linker DI/SS2-S6, adjacent to the channel pore, in determining Av3 specificity. Point mutagenesis at DI/SS2-S6 accompanied by functional assays highlighted Trp404 and His405 as a putative point of Av3 interaction with DmNav1. His405 conservation in arthropod Navs compared with tyrosine in vertebrate Navs may represent an ancient substitution that explains the contemporary selectivity of Av3. Trp404 and His405 localization near the membrane surface and the hydrophobic bioactive surface of Av3 suggest that the toxin possibly binds at a cleft by DI/S6. A partial overlap in receptor site-3 of both toxins nearby DI/S6 may explain their binding competition capabilities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BJ20140576DOI Listing
October 2014

Mapping the receptor site for alpha-scorpion toxins on a Na+ channel voltage sensor.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2011 Sep 29;108(37):15426-31. Epub 2011 Aug 29.

Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-7280, USA.

The α-scorpions toxins bind to the resting state of Na(+) channels and inhibit fast inactivation by interaction with a receptor site formed by domains I and IV. Mutants T1560A, F1610A, and E1613A in domain IV had lower affinities for Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus toxin II (LqhII), and mutant E1613R had ~73-fold lower affinity. Toxin dissociation was accelerated by depolarization and increased by these mutations, whereas association rates at negative membrane potentials were not changed. These results indicate that Thr1560 in the S1-S2 loop, Phe1610 in the S3 segment, and Glu1613 in the S3-S4 loop in domain IV participate in toxin binding. T393A in the SS2-S6 loop in domain I also had lower affinity for LqhII, indicating that this extracellular loop may form a secondary component of the receptor site. Analysis with the Rosetta-Membrane algorithm resulted in a model of LqhII binding to the voltage sensor in a resting state, in which amino acid residues in an extracellular cleft formed by the S1-S2 and S3-S4 loops in domain IV interact with two faces of the wedge-shaped LqhII molecule. The conserved gating charges in the S4 segment are in an inward position and form ion pairs with negatively charged amino acid residues in the S2 and S3 segments of the voltage sensor. This model defines the structure of the resting state of a voltage sensor of Na(+) channels and reveals its mode of interaction with a gating modifier toxin.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1112320108DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3174582PMC
September 2011

Elucidation of the molecular basis of selective recognition uncovers the interaction site for the core domain of scorpion alpha-toxins on sodium channels.

J Biol Chem 2011 Oct 8;286(40):35209-17. Epub 2011 Aug 8.

Department of Plant Molecular Biology and Ecology, George S Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel.

Neurotoxin receptor site-3 at voltage-gated Na(+) channels is recognized by various peptide toxin inhibitors of channel inactivation. Despite extensive studies of the effects of these toxins, their mode of interaction with the channel remained to be described at the molecular level. To identify channel constituents that interact with the toxins, we exploited the opposing preferences of LqhαIT and Lqh2 scorpion α-toxins for insect and mammalian brain Na(+) channels. Construction of the DIV/S1-S2, DIV/S3-S4, DI/S5-SS1, and DI/SS2-S6 external loops of the rat brain rNa(v)1.2a channel (highly sensitive to Lqh2) in the background of the Drosophila DmNa(v)1 channel (highly sensitive to LqhαIT), and examination of toxin activity on the channel chimera expressed in Xenopus oocytes revealed a substantial decrease in LqhαIT effect, whereas Lqh2 was as effective as at rNa(v)1.2a. Further substitutions of individual loops and specific residues followed by examination of gain or loss in Lqh2 and LqhαIT activities highlighted the importance of DI/S5-S6 (pore module) and the C-terminal region of DIV/S3 (gating module) of rNa(v)1.2a for Lqh2 action and selectivity. In contrast, a single substitution of Glu-1613 to Asp at DIV/S3-S4 converted rNa(v)1.2a to high sensitivity toward LqhαIT. Comparison of depolarization-driven dissociation of Lqh2 and mutant derivatives off their binding site at rNa(v)1.2a mutant channels has suggested that the toxin core domain interacts with the gating module of DIV. These results constitute the first step in better understanding of the way scorpion α-toxins interact with voltage-gated Na(+)-channels at the molecular level.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M111.259507DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3186375PMC
October 2011

Partial agonist and antagonist activities of a mutant scorpion beta-toxin on sodium channels.

J Biol Chem 2010 Oct 3;285(40):30531-8. Epub 2010 Aug 3.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv 69978, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Scorpion β-toxin 4 from Centruroides suffusus suffusus (Css4) enhances the activation of voltage-gated sodium channels through a voltage sensor trapping mechanism by binding the activated state of the voltage sensor in domain II and stabilizing it in its activated conformation. Here we describe the antagonist and partial agonist properties of a mutant derivative of this toxin. Substitution of seven different amino acid residues for Glu(15) in Css4 yielded toxin derivatives with both increased and decreased affinities for binding to neurotoxin receptor site 4 on sodium channels. Css4(E15R) is unique among this set of mutants in that it retained nearly normal binding affinity but lost its functional activity for modification of sodium channel gating in our standard electrophysiological assay for voltage sensor trapping. More detailed analysis of the functional effects of Css4(E15R) revealed weak voltage sensor trapping activity, which was very rapidly reversed upon repolarization and therefore was not observed in our standard assay of toxin effects. This partial agonist activity of Css4(E15R) is observed clearly in voltage sensor trapping assays with brief (5 ms) repolarization between the conditioning prepulse and the test pulse. The effects of Css4(E15R) are fit well by a three-step model of toxin action involving concentration-dependent toxin binding to its receptor site followed by depolarization-dependent activation of the voltage sensor and subsequent voltage sensor trapping. Because it is a partial agonist with much reduced efficacy for voltage sensor trapping, Css4(E15R) can antagonize the effects of wild-type Css4 on sodium channel activation and can prevent paralysis by Css4 when injected into mice. Our results define the first partial agonist and antagonist activities for scorpion toxins and open new avenues of research toward better understanding of the structure-function relationships for toxin action on sodium channel voltage sensors and toward potential toxin-based therapeutics to prevent lethality from scorpion envenomation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M110.150888DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945547PMC
October 2010

Positions under positive selection--key for selectivity and potency of scorpion alpha-toxins.

Mol Biol Evol 2010 May 17;27(5):1025-34. Epub 2009 Dec 17.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Alpha-neurotoxins target voltage-gated sodium channels (Na(v)s) and constitute an important component in the venom of Buthidae scorpions. These toxins are short polypeptides highly conserved in sequence and three-dimensional structure, and yet they differ greatly in activity and preference for insect and various mammalian Na(v)s. Despite extensive studies of the structure-function relationship of these toxins, only little is known about their evolution and phylogeny. Using a broad data set based on published sequences and rigorous cloning, we reconstructed a reliable phylogenetic tree of scorpion alpha-toxins and estimated the evolutionary forces involved in the diversification of their genes using maximum likelihood-based methods. Although the toxins are largely conserved, four positions were found to evolve under positive selection, of which two (10 and 18; numbered according to LqhalphaIT and Lqh2 from the Israeli yellow scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus) have been previously shown to affect toxin activity. The putative role of the other two positions (39 and 41) was analyzed by mutagenesis of Lqh2 and LqhalphaIT. Whereas substitution P41K in Lqh2 did not alter its activity, substitution K41P in LqhalphaIT significantly decreased the activity at insect and mammalian Na(v)s. Surprisingly, not only that substitution A39L in both toxins increased their activity by 10-fold but also LqhalphaIT(A39L) was active at the mammalian brain channel rNa(v)1.2a, which otherwise is hardly affected by LqhalphaIT, and Lqh2(A39L) was active at the insect channel, DmNa(v)1, which is almost insensitive to Lqh2. Thus, position 39 is involved not only in activity but also in toxin selectivity. Overall, this study describes evolutionary forces involved in the diversification of scorpion alpha-toxins, highlights the key role of positions under positive selection for selectivity and potency, and raises new questions as to the toxin-channel face of interaction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msp310DOI Listing
May 2010

Fusion and retrotransposition events in the evolution of the sea anemone Anemonia viridis neurotoxin genes.

J Mol Evol 2009 Aug 16;69(2):115-24. Epub 2009 Jul 16.

Department of Plant Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv, Israel.

Sea anemones are sessile predators that use a variety of toxins to paralyze prey and foe. Among these toxins, Types I, II and III are short peptides that affect voltage-gated sodium channels. Anemonia viridis is the only sea anemone species that produces both Types I and III neurotoxin. Although the two toxin types are unrelated in sequence and three-dimensional structure, cloning and comparative analysis of their loci revealed a highly similar sequence at the 5' region, which encodes a signal peptide. This similarity was likely generated by gene fusion and could be advantageous in transcript stability and intracellular trafficking and secretion. In addition, these analyses identified the processed pseudogenes of the two gene families in the genome of A. viridis, probably resulting from retrotransposition events. As presence of processed pseudogenes in the genome requires transcription in germ-line cells, we analyzed oocyte-rich ovaries and found that indeed they contain Types I and III transcripts. This result raises questions regarding the role of toxin transcripts in these tissues. Overall, the retrotransposition and gene fusion events suggest that the genes of both Types I and III neurotoxins evolved in a similar fashion and share a partial common ancestry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00239-009-9258-xDOI Listing
August 2009

Molecular requirements for recognition of brain voltage-gated sodium channels by scorpion alpha-toxins.

J Biol Chem 2009 Jul 9;284(31):20684-91. Epub 2009 Jun 9.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv 69978, Tel Aviv, Israel.

The scorpion alpha-toxin Lqh2 (from Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus) is active at various mammalian voltage-gated sodium channels (Na(v)s) and is inactive at insect Na(v)s. To resolve the molecular basis of this preference we used the following strategy: 1) Lqh2 was expressed in recombinant form and key residues important for activity at the rat brain channel rNa(v)1.2a were identified by mutagenesis. These residues form a bipartite functional surface made of a conserved "core domain" (residues of the loops connecting the secondary structure elements of the molecule core), and a variable "NC domain" (five-residue turn and the C-tail) as was reported for other scorpion alpha-toxins. 2) The functional role of the two domains was validated by their stepwise construction on the similar scaffold of the anti-insect toxin LqhalphaIT. Analysis of the activity of the intermediate constructs highlighted the critical role of Phe(15) of the core domain in toxin potency at rNa(v)1.2a, and has suggested that the shape of the NC-domain is important for toxin efficacy. 3) Based on these findings and by comparison with other scorpion alpha-toxins we were able to eliminate the activity of Lqh2 at rNa(v)1.4 (skeletal muscle), hNa(v)1.5 (cardiac), and rNa(v)1.6 channels, with no hindrance of its activity at Na(v)1.1-1.3. These results suggest that by employing a similar approach the design of further target-selective sodium channel modifiers is imminent.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M109.021303DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2742833PMC
July 2009

Intron retention as a posttranscriptional regulatory mechanism of neurotoxin expression at early life stages of the starlet anemone Nematostella vectensis.

J Mol Biol 2008 Jul 11;380(3):437-43. Epub 2008 May 11.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.

Sea anemones use an arsenal of peptide neurotoxins accumulated in special stinging cells (nematocytes) for defense and predation. Intriguingly, genomic analysis of Nematostella vectensis revealed only a single toxin, Nv1 (N. vectensis toxin 1), encoded by multiple extremely conserved genes. We examined the toxic potential of Nv1 and whether it is produced by the three developmental stages (embryo, planula, and polyp) of Nematostella. Nv1 was expressed in recombinant form and, similarly to Type I sea anemone toxins, inhibited the inactivation of voltage-gated sodium channels. However, in contrast to the other toxins, Nv1 revealed high specificity for insect over mammalian voltage-gated sodium channels. Transcript analysis indicated that multiple Nv1 loci are transcribed at all developmental stages of N. vectensis, whereas splicing of these transcripts is restricted to the polyp stage. This finding suggests that regulation of Nv1 synthesis is posttranscriptional and that the embryo and planula stages do not produce the Nv1 toxin. This rare phenomenon of intron retention at the early developmental stages is intriguing and raises the question as to the mechanism enabling such differential expression in sea anemones.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmb.2008.05.011DOI Listing
July 2008

Miniaturization of scorpion beta-toxins uncovers a putative ancestral surface of interaction with voltage-gated sodium channels.

J Biol Chem 2008 May 13;283(22):15169-76. Epub 2008 Mar 13.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

The bioactive surface of scorpion beta-toxins that interact with receptor site-4 at voltage-gated sodium channels is constituted of residues of the conserved betaalphabetabeta core and the C-tail. In an attempt to evaluate the extent by which residues of the toxin core contribute to bioactivity, the anti-insect and anti-mammalian beta-toxins Bj-xtrIT and Css4 were truncated at their N and C termini, resulting in miniature peptides composed essentially of the core secondary structure motives. The truncated beta-toxins (DeltaDeltaBj-xtrIT and DeltaDeltaCss4) were non-toxic and did not compete with the parental toxins on binding at receptor site-4. Surprisingly, DeltaDeltaBj-xtrIT and DeltaDeltaCss4 were capable of modulating in an allosteric manner the binding and effects of site-3 scorpion alpha-toxins in a way reminiscent of that of brevetoxins, which bind at receptor site-5. While reducing the binding and effect of the scorpion alpha-toxin Lqh2 at mammalian sodium channels, they enhanced the binding and effect of LqhalphaIT at insect sodium channels. Co-application of DeltaDeltaBj-xtrIT or DeltaDeltaCss4 with brevetoxin abolished the brevetoxin effect, although they did not compete in binding. These results denote a novel surface at DeltaDeltaBj-xtrIT and DeltaDeltaCss4 capable of interaction with sodium channels at a site other than sites 3, 4, or 5, which prior to the truncation was masked by the bioactive surface that interacts with receptor site-4. The disclosure of this hidden surface at both beta-toxins may be viewed as an exercise in "reverse evolution," providing a clue as to their evolution from a smaller ancestor of similar scaffold.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M801229200DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2397468PMC
May 2008

NMR analysis of interaction of LqhalphaIT scorpion toxin with a peptide corresponding to the D4/S3-S4 loop of insect para voltage-gated sodium channel.

Biochemistry 2008 Jan 23;47(3):911-21. Epub 2007 Dec 23.

Department of Structural Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.

Voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs) are large transmembrane proteins that initiate action potential in electrically excitable cells. This central role in the nervous system has made them a primary target for a large number of neurotoxins. Scorpion alpha-neurotoxins bind to Navs with high affinity and slow their inactivation, causing a prolonged action potential. Despite the similarity in their mode of action and three-dimensional structure, alpha-toxins exhibit great variations in selectivity toward insect and mammalian Navs, suggesting differences in the binding surfaces of the toxins and the channels. The scorpion alpha-toxin binding site, termed neurotoxin receptor site 3, has been shown to involve the extracellular S3-S4 loop in domain 4 of the alpha-subunit of voltage-gated sodium channels (D4/S3-S4). In this study, the binding site for peptides corresponding to the D4/S3-S4 loop of the para insect Nav was mapped on the highly insecticidal alpha-neurotoxin, LqhalphaIT, from the scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus, by following changes in the toxin amide 1H and 15N chemical shifts upon binding. This analysis suggests that the five-residue turn (residues LqK8-LqC12) of LqhalphaIT and those residues in its vicinity interact with the D4/S3-S4 loop of Nav. Residues LqR18, LqW38, and LqA39 could also form a patch contributing to the interaction with D4/S3-S4. Moreover, a new bioactive residue, LqV13, was identified as being important for Nav binding and specifically for the interaction with the D4/S3-S4 loop. The contribution of LqV13 to NaV binding was further verified by mutagenesis. Future studies involving other extracellular regions of Navs are required for further characterization of the structure of the LqhalphaIT-Navs binding site.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/bi701323kDOI Listing
January 2008

Molecular analysis of the sea anemone toxin Av3 reveals selectivity to insects and demonstrates the heterogeneity of receptor site-3 on voltage-gated Na+ channels.

Biochem J 2007 Aug;406(1):41-8

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv 69978, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Av3 is a short peptide toxin from the sea anemone Anemonia viridis shown to be active on crustaceans and inactive on mammals. It inhibits inactivation of Na(v)s (voltage-gated Na+ channels) like the structurally dissimilar scorpion alpha-toxins and type I sea anemone toxins that bind to receptor site-3. To examine the potency and mode of interaction of Av3 with insect Na(v)s, we established a system for its expression, mutagenized it throughout, and analysed it in toxicity, binding and electrophysiological assays. The recombinant Av3 was found to be highly toxic to blowfly larvae (ED50=2.65+/-0.46 pmol/100 mg), to compete well with the site-3 toxin LqhalphaIT (from the scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus) on binding to cockroach neuronal membranes (K(i)=21.4+/-7.1 nM), and to inhibit the inactivation of Drosophila melanogaster channel, DmNa(v)1, but not that of mammalian Na(v)s expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Moreover, like other site-3 toxins, the activity of Av3 was synergically enhanced by ligands of receptor site-4 (e.g. scorpion beta-toxins). The bioactive surface of Av3 was found to consist mainly of aromatic residues and did not resemble any of the bioactive surfaces of other site-3 toxins. These analyses have portrayed a toxin that might interact with receptor site-3 in a different fashion compared with other ligands of this site. This assumption was corroborated by a D1701R mutation in DmNa(v)1, which has been shown to abolish the activity of all other site-3 ligands, except Av3. All in all, the present study provides further evidence for the heterogeneity of receptor site-3, and raises Av3 as a unique model for design of selective anti-insect compounds.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BJ20070233DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1948988PMC
August 2007

The unique pharmacology of the scorpion alpha-like toxin Lqh3 is associated with its flexible C-tail.

FEBS J 2007 Apr 9;274(8):1918-31. Epub 2007 Mar 9.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S.Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel.

The affinity of scorpion alpha-toxins for various voltage-gated sodium channels (Na(v)s) differs considerably despite similar structures and activities. It has been proposed that key bioactive residues of the five-residue-turn (residues 8-12) and the C-tail form the NC domain, whose topology is dictated by a cis or trans peptide-bond conformation between residues 9 and 10, which correlates with the potency on insect or mammalian Na(v)s. We examined this hypothesis using Lqh3, an alpha-like toxin from Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus that is highly active in insects and mammalian brain. Lqh3 exhibits slower association kinetics to Na(v)s compared with other alpha-toxins and its binding to insect Na(v)s is pH-dependent. Mutagenesis of Lqh3 revealed a bi-partite bioactive surface, composed of the Core and NC domains, as found in other alpha-toxins. Yet, substitutions at the five-residue turn and stabilization of the 9-10 bond in the cis conformation did not affect the activity. However, substitution of hydrogen-bond donors/acceptors at the NC domain reduced the pH-dependency of toxin binding, while retaining its high potency at Drosophila Na(v)s expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Based on these results and the conformational flexibility and rearrangement of intramolecular hydrogen-bonds at the NC domain, evident from the known solution structure, we suggest that acidic pH or specific mutations at the NC domain favor toxin conformations with high affinity for the receptor by stabilizing the bound toxin-receptor complex. Moreover, the C-tail flexibility may account for the slower association rates and suggests a novel mechanism of dynamic conformer selection during toxin binding, enabling alpha-like toxins to affect a broad range of Na(v)s.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1742-4658.2007.05737.xDOI Listing
April 2007

The differential preference of scorpion alpha-toxins for insect or mammalian sodium channels: implications for improved insect control.

Toxicon 2007 Mar 28;49(4):452-72. Epub 2006 Nov 28.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv 69978, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Receptor site-3 on voltage-gated sodium channels is targeted by a variety of structurally distinct toxins from scorpions, sea anemones, and spiders whose typical action is the inhibition of sodium current inactivation. This site interacts allosterically with other topologically distinct receptors that bind alkaloids, lipophilic polyether toxins, pyrethroids, and site-4 scorpion toxins. These features suggest that design of insecticides with specificity for site-3 might be rewarding due to the positive cooperativity with other toxins or insecticidal agents. Yet, despite the central role of scorpion alpha-toxins in envenomation and their vast use in the study of channel functions, molecular details on site-3 are scarce. Scorpion alpha-toxins vary greatly in preference for sodium channels of insects and mammals, and some of them are highly active on insects. This implies that despite its commonality, receptor site-3 varies on insect vs. mammalian channels, and that elucidation of these differences could potentially be exploited for manipulation of toxin preference. This review provides current perspectives on (i) the classification of scorpion alpha-toxins, (ii) their mode of interaction with sodium channels and pharmacological divergence, (iii) molecular details on their bioactive surfaces and differences associated with preference for channel subtypes, as well as (iv) a summary of the present knowledge about elements involved in constituting receptor site-3. These details, combined with the variations in allosteric interactions between site-3 and the other receptor sites on insect and mammalian sodium channels, may be useful in new strategies of insect control and future design of anti-insect selective ligands.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.toxicon.2006.11.016DOI Listing
March 2007

The insecticidal potential of scorpion beta-toxins.

Toxicon 2007 Mar 28;49(4):473-89. Epub 2006 Nov 28.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv 69978, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Voltage-gated sodium channels are a major target for toxins and insecticides due to their central role in excitability, but due to the conservation of these channels in Animalia most insecticides do not distinguish between those of insects and mammals, thereby imposing risks to humans and livestock. Evidently, as long as modern agriculture depends heavily on the use of insecticides there is a great need for new substances capable of differentiating between sodium channel subtypes. Such substances exist in venomous animals, but ways for their exploitation have not yet been developed due to problems associated with manufacturing, degradation, and delivery to the target channels. Engineering of plants for expression of anti-insect toxins or use of natural vectors that express toxins near their target site (e.g. baculoviruses) are still problematic and raise public concern. In this problematic reality a rational approach might be to learn from nature how to design highly selective anti-insect compounds preferably in the form of peptidomimetics. This is a complex task that requires the elucidation of the face of interaction between insect-selective toxins and their sodium channel receptor sites. This review delineates current progress in: (i) elucidation of the bioactive surfaces of scorpion beta-toxins, especially the excitatory and depressant groups, which show high preference for insects and bind insect sodium channels with high affinity; (ii) studies of the mode of interaction of scorpion beta-toxins with receptor site-4 on voltage-gated sodium channels; and (iii) clarification of channel elements that constitute receptor site-4. This information may be useful in future attempts to mimic the bioactive surface of the toxins for the design of anti-insect selective peptidomimetics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.toxicon.2006.11.015DOI Listing
March 2007

X-ray structure and mutagenesis of the scorpion depressant toxin LqhIT2 reveals key determinants crucial for activity and anti-insect selectivity.

J Mol Biol 2007 Feb 10;366(2):586-601. Epub 2006 Nov 10.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, and The Daniella Rich Institute for Structural Biology, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel.

Scorpion depressant beta-toxins show high preference for insect voltage-gated sodium channels (Na(v)s) and modulate their activation. Although their pharmacological and physiological effects were described, their three-dimensional structure and bioactive surface have never been determined. We utilized an efficient system for expression of the depressant toxin LqhIT2 (from Leiurus quinquestriatushebraeus), mutagenized its entire exterior, and determined its X-ray structure at 1.2 A resolution. The toxin molecule is composed of a conserved cysteine-stabilized alpha/beta-core (core-globule), and perpendicular to it an entity constituted from the N and C-terminal regions (NC-globule). The surface topology and overall hydrophobicity of the groove between the core and NC-globules (N-groove) is important for toxin activity and plays a role in selectivity to insect Na(v)s. The N-groove is flanked by Glu24 and Tyr28, which belong to the "pharmacophore" of scorpion beta-toxins, and by the side-chains of Trp53 and Asn58 that are important for receptor site recognition. Substitution of Ala13 by Trp in the N-groove uncoupled activity from binding, suggesting that this region of the molecule is also involved in "voltage-sensor trapping", the mode of action that typifies scorpion beta-toxins. The involvement of the N-groove in recognition of the receptor site, which seems to require a defined topology, as well as in sensor trapping, which involves interaction with a moving channel region, is puzzling. On the basis of the mutagenesis studies we hypothesize that following binding to the receptor site, the toxin undergoes a conformational change at the N-groove region that facilitates the trapping of the voltage-sensor in its activated position.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmb.2006.10.085DOI Listing
February 2007

Expression and mutagenesis of the sea anemone toxin Av2 reveals key amino acid residues important for activity on voltage-gated sodium channels.

Biochemistry 2006 Jul;45(29):8864-73

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv 69978, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Type I sea anemone toxins are highly potent modulators of voltage-gated Na-channels (Na(v)s) and compete with the structurally dissimilar scorpion alpha-toxins on binding to receptor site-3. Although these features provide two structurally different probes for studying receptor site-3 and channel fast inactivation, the bioactive surface of sea anemone toxins has not been fully resolved. We established an efficient expression system for Av2 (known as ATX II), a highly insecticidal sea anemone toxin from Anemonia viridis (previously named A. sulcata), and mutagenized it throughout. Each toxin mutant was analyzed in toxicity and binding assays as well as by circular dichroism spectroscopy to discern the effects derived from structural perturbation from those related to bioactivity. Six residues were found to constitute the anti-insect bioactive surface of Av2 (Val-2, Leu-5, Asn-16, Leu-18, and Ile-41). Further analysis of nine Av2 mutants on the human heart channel Na(v)1.5 expressed in Xenopus oocytes indicated that the bioactive surfaces toward insects and mammals practically coincide but differ from the bioactive surface of a structurally similar sea anemone toxin, Anthopleurin B, from Anthopleura xanthogrammica. Hence, our results not only demonstrate clear differences in the bioactive surfaces of Av2 and scorpion alpha-toxins but also indicate that despite the general conservation in structure and importance of the Arg-14 loop and its flanking residues Gly-10 and Gly-20 for function, the surface of interaction between different sea anemone toxins and Na(v)s varies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/bi060386bDOI Listing
July 2006