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Structure-function studies of omega-atracotoxin, a potent antagonist of insect voltage-gated calcium channels.

Wang X.-H., Smith R., Fletcher J.I., Wilson H., Wood C.J., Merlin E.H., King G.F.

The omega-atracotoxins are a family of 36 to 37-residue peptide neurotoxins that block insect but not mammalian voltage-gated calcium channels. The high phylogenetic specificity of these toxins recommends them as lead compounds for targeting insects that have developed resistance to chemical pesticides. We have begun to examine structure-function relationships in the omega-atracotoxins in order to explore the molecular basis of their activity and phylogenetic specificity. By probing the venom of the Blue Mountains funnel-web spider, Hadronyche versuta, for insecticidal toxins with masses close to that of omega-atracotoxin-Hv1a (omega-ACTX-Hv1a), we have isolated and sequenced five additional omega-atracotoxins. Five of the six omega-atracotoxins isolated from the venom of H. versuta (omega-ACTX-Hv1a to -Hv1e) differ from one another by only 1-3 residues and have similar insecticidal potencies. In contrast, omega-ACTX-Hv1f differs from the other toxins by up to 10 residues and it has markedly reduced insecticidal potency, thus providing information on key functional residues. The new atracotoxin sequences have revealed that the three N-terminal residues are highly conserved. Despite the fact that these residues are structurally disordered in solution we show here, by a series of N-terminal truncations, that they contribute significantly to insecticidal potency. However, loss of activity does not correlate with deletion of highly conserved residues, which leads us to propose that the disposition of the N-terminal charge, rather than the chemical properties of the N-terminal residues themselves, may be critical for the activity of omega-atracotoxin on insect calcium channels.

Eur. J. Biochem. 264:488-494(1999) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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