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Conantokins Derived from the Asprella Clade Impart conRl-B, an N-Methyl d-Aspartate Receptor Antagonist with a Unique Selectivity Profile for NR2B Subunits

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journal contribution
posted on 12.06.2012, 00:00 by Konkallu Hanumae Gowd, Tiffany S. Han, Vernon Twede, Joanna Gajewiak, Misty D. Smith, Maren Watkins, Randall J. Platt, Gabriela Toledo, H. Steve White, Baldomero M. Olivera, Grzegorz Bulaj
Using molecular phylogeny has accelerated the discovery of peptidic ligands targeted to ion channels and receptors. One clade of venomous cone snails, Asprella, appears to be significantly enriched in conantokins, antagonists of N-methyl d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs). Here, we describe the characterization of two novel conantokins from Conus rolani, including conantokin conRl-B that has shown an unprecedented selectivity for blocking NMDARs that contain NR2B subunits. ConRl-B shares only some sequence similarity with the most studied NR2B selective conantokin, conG. The divergence between conRl-B and conG in the second inter-Gla loop was used to design analogues for structure–activity studies; the presence of Pro10 was found to be key to the high potency of conRl-B for NR2B, whereas the ε-amino group of Lys8 contributed to discrimination in blocking NR2B- and NR2A-containing NMDARs. In contrast to previous findings for Tyr5 substitutions in other conantokins, conRl-B­[L5Y] showed potencies on the four NR2 NMDA receptor subtypes that were similar to those of the native conRl-B. When delivered into the brain, conRl-B was active in suppressing seizures in the model of epilepsy in mice, consistent with NR2B-containing NMDA receptors being potential targets for antiepileptic drugs. Circular dichroism experiments confirmed that the helical conformation of conRl-B is stabilized by divalent metal ions. Given the clinical applications of NMDA antagonists, conRl-B provides a potentially important pharmacological tool for understanding the differential roles of NMDA receptor subtypes in the nervous system. This work shows the effectiveness of coupling molecular phylogeny, chemical synthesis, and pharmacology for discovering new bioactive natural products.