Scorpion venom is an unmatched source of selective high-affinity ligands of potassium channels. There is a high demand for such compounds to identify and manipulate the activity of particular channel isoforms. The objective of this study was to obtain and characterize a specific ligand of voltage-gated potassium channel KV1.2. As a result, we report the remarkable selectivity of the peptide MeKTx11-1 (α-KTx 1.16) from Mesobuthus eupeus scorpion venom to this channel isoform. MeKTx11-1 is a high-affinity blocker of KV1.2 (IC50 ∼0.2 nM), while its activity against KV1.1, KV1.3, and KV1.6 is 10 000, 330 and 45 000 fold lower, respectively, as measured using the voltage-clamp technique on mammalian channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Two substitutions, G9V and P37S, convert MeKTx11-1 to its natural analog MeKTx11-3 (α-KTx 1.17) having 15 times lower activity and reduced selectivity to KV1.2. We produced MeKTx11-1 and MeKTx11-3 as well as their mutants MeKTx11-1(G9V) and MeKTx11-1(P37S) recombinantly and demonstrated that point mutations provide an intermediate effect on selectivity. Key structural elements that explain MeKTx11-1 specificity were identified by molecular modeling of the toxin-channel complexes. Confirming our molecular modeling predictions, site-directed transfer of these elements from the pore region of KV1.2 to KV1.3 resulted in the enhanced sensitivity of mutant KV1.3 channels to MeKTx11-1. We conclude that MeKTx11-1 may be used as a selective tool in neurobiology.
Keywords: Ion channel; Molecular dynamics; Neurotoxin; Peptides; Potassium channel; Scorpion toxin.
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