alpha-Conotoxins: nicotinic acetylcholine receptor antagonists as pharmacological tools and potential drug leads

Curr Med Chem. 2001 Mar;8(4):327-44. doi: 10.2174/0929867013373453.


Conotoxins are small disulfide rich peptides from the venoms of marine cone snails. They target specific nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subtypes with high affinity and potency and are therefore valuable as neuropharmacological probes and potential drug leads. This article gives a general overview of the chemical and biological features of alpha-conotoxins, including their pharmacology, binding interactions and structure. A detailed analysis of recently reported three-dimensional structures from members of different subfamilies of the alpha-conotoxins, including those with 3/5, 4/3, 4/6 and 4/7 spacings of their two intracysteine loops is given. The structures are generally well defined and represent useful frameworks for the display of amino acid residues to target molecules.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Conotoxins / chemistry
  • Conotoxins / metabolism
  • Conotoxins / pharmacology*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / metabolism
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism
  • Snails


  • Conotoxins
  • Nicotinic Antagonists
  • Receptors, Nicotinic