Scanning mutagenesis of alpha-conotoxin Vc1.1 reveals residues crucial for activity at the alpha9alpha10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor

J Biol Chem. 2009 Jul 24;284(30):20275-84. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.015339. Epub 2009 May 15.


Vc1.1 is a disulfide-rich peptide inhibitor of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors that has stimulated considerable interest in these receptors as potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of neuropathic pain. Here we present an extensive series of mutational studies in which all residues except the conserved cysteines were mutated separately to Ala, Asp, or Lys. The effect on acetylcholine (ACh)-evoked membrane currents at the alpha9alpha10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR), which has been implicated as a target in the alleviation of neuropathic pain, was then observed. The analogs were characterized by NMR spectroscopy to determine the effects of mutations on structure. The structural fold was found to be preserved in all peptides except where Pro was substituted. Electrophysiological studies showed that the key residues for functional activity are Asp(5)-Arg(7) and Asp(11)-Ile(15), because changes at these positions resulted in the loss of activity at the alpha9alpha10 nAChR. Interestingly, the S4K and N9A analogs were more potent than Vc1.1 itself. A second generation of mutants was synthesized, namely N9G, N9I, N9L, S4R, and S4K+N9A, all of which were more potent than Vc1.1 at both the rat alpha9alpha10 and the human alpha9/rat alpha10 hybrid receptor, providing a mechanistic insight into the key residues involved in eliciting the biological function of Vc1.1. The most potent analogs were also tested at the alpha3beta2, alpha3beta4, and alpha7 nAChR subtypes to determine their selectivity. All mutants tested were most selective for the alpha9alpha10 nAChR. These findings provide valuable insight into the interaction of Vc1.1 with the alpha9alpha10 nAChR subtype and will help in the further development of analogs of Vc1.1 as analgesic drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Conotoxins / chemistry*
  • Conotoxins / genetics
  • Conotoxins / pharmacology*
  • Conus Snail / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / chemistry*
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Point Mutation
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Titrimetry
  • Xenopus


  • Conotoxins
  • Nicotinic Antagonists
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • alpha-conotoxin Vc1.1