Current views on scorpion toxins specific for K+-channels

Toxicon. 2004 Jun 15;43(8):865-75. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2004.03.022.


Much of our knowledge on K+-channels was elucidated using specific peptide ligands isolated from a number of venomous organisms. Recently, this field received a strong support and increased interest due to the solution of the three-dimensional structure of a couple of K+-channels. At the same time, several new subfamilies of specific toxins for K+-channels were isolated from scorpion venoms, enhancing the availability and diversity of such useful molecular tools. It opened new lines of research for the better understanding of K+-channel biophysics and pharmacology. In this review, we listed 120 amino acid sequences of peptides isolated from scorpion venoms. They were demonstrated or assumed to be specific for K+-channels. These sequences were aligned and used to generate a rooted phylogenetic tree. The evolutionary tree indicates that several clusters of divergent peptides show preference for specific subtypes of channels. The three-dimensional structures of representative examples of these peptides were drawn and analysed concerning the molecular fitness of their interactions with the channel targets. Four different interacting modes were identified to exist between scorpion toxins and the various subtypes of K+-channels.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Scorpion Venoms / genetics
  • Scorpion Venoms / metabolism*
  • Scorpions / chemistry*
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Peptides
  • Potassium Channels
  • Scorpion Venoms