The alpha9 and alpha10 nicotinic cholinergic subunits assemble to form the receptor believed to mediate synaptic transmission between efferent olivocochlear fibers and hair cells of the cochlea, one of the few examples of postsynaptic function for a non-muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR). However, it has been suggested that the expression profile of alpha9 and alpha10 overlaps with that of alpha7 in the cochlea and in sites such as dorsal root ganglion neurons, peripheral blood lymphocytes, developing thymocytes, and skin. We now report the cloning, total synthesis, and characterization of a novel toxin alpha-conotoxin PeIA that discriminates between alpha9alpha10 and alpha7 nAChRs. This is the first toxin to be identified from Conus pergrandis, a species found in deep waters of the Western Pacific. Alpha-conotoxin PeIA displayed a 260-fold higher selectivity for alpha-bungarotoxin-sensitive alpha9alpha10 nAChRs compared with alpha-bungarotoxin-sensitive alpha7 receptors. The IC50 of the toxin was 6.9 +/- 0.5 nM and 4.4 +/- 0.5 nM for recombinant alpha9alpha10 and wild-type hair cell nAChRs, respectively. Alpha-conotoxin PeIA bears high resemblance to alpha-conotoxins MII and GIC isolated from Conus magus and Conus geographus, respectively. However, neither alpha-conotoxin MII nor alpha-conotoxin GIC at concentrations of 10 microM blocked acetylcholine responses elicited in Xenopus oocytes injected with the alpha9 and alpha10 subunits. Among neuronal non-alpha-bungarotoxin-sensitive receptors, alpha-conotoxin PeIA was also active at alpha3beta2 receptors and chimeric alpha6/alpha3beta2beta3 receptors. Alpha-conotoxin PeIA represents a novel probe to differentiate responses mediated either through alpha9alpha10 or alpha7 nAChRs in those tissues where both receptors are expressed.