α-Conotoxins are disulfide-rich peptides that target nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Recently we identified several α-conotoxins that also modulate voltage-gated calcium channels by acting as G protein-coupled GABAB receptor (GABABR) agonists. These α-conotoxins are promising drug leads for the treatment of chronic pain. To elucidate the diversity of α-conotoxins that act through this mechanism, we synthesized and characterized a set of peptides with homology to α-conotoxins known to inhibit high voltage-activated calcium channels via GABABR activation. Remarkably, all disulfide isomers of the active α-conotoxins Pu1.2 and Pn1.2, and the previously studied Vc1.1 showed similar levels of biological activity. Structure determination by NMR spectroscopy helped us identify a simplified biologically active eight residue peptide motif containing a single disulfide bond that is an excellent lead molecule for developing a new generation of analgesic peptide drugs.
- calcium channel
- drug design
- structure-activity relationships