Cobrotoxin (CbT), a short-chain postsynaptic α-neurotoxin, has been reported to play a role in analgesia. However, to date, the detailed mechanisms still remain unknown. In the present study, we identify a novel functional role of CbT in modulating T-type Ca(2+) channel currents (T-currents) in small dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons as well as pain behaviors in mice. We found that CbT inhibited T-currents in a dose-dependent manner. CbT at 1μM reversibly inhibited T-currents by ~26.3%. This inhibitory effect was abolished by the non-selective muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) antagonist atropine, or the selective M3 mAChR antagonist 4-DAMP, while naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist had no effect. Intracellular infusion of GDP-β-S or pretreatment of the cells with pertussis toxin (PTX) completely blocked the inhibitory effects of CbT. Using depolarizing prepulse, we found the absence of direct binding between G-protein βγ subunits and T-type Ca(2+) channels in CbT-induced T-current inhibition. CbT responses were abolished by the phospholipase C inhibitor U73122 (but not the inactive analog U73343). The classical and novel protein kinase C (nPKC) antagonist chelerythrine chlorid or GF109203X abolished CbT responses, whereas the classical PKC antagonist Ro31-8820 or inhibition of PKA elicited no such effects. Intrathecal administration of CbT (5μg/kg) produced antinociceptive effects in mechanical, thermal, and inflammatory pain models. Moreover, CbT-induced antinociception could be abrogated by 4-DAMP. Taken together, these results suggest that CbT acting through M3 mAChR inhibits T-currents via a PTX-sensitive nPKC pathway in small DRG neurons, which could contribute to its analgesic effects in mice.
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