skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Thursday, June 13 until 2:00 AM ET on Friday, June 14 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Identification and Characterization of Novel Proteins from Arizona Bark Scorpion Venom That Inhibit Nav1.8, a Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel Regulator of Pain Signaling
The voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.8 is linked to neuropathic and inflammatory pain, highlighting the potential to serve as a drug target. However, the biophysical mechanisms that regulate Nav1.8 activation and inactivation gating are not completely understood. Progress has been hindered by a lack of biochemical tools for examining Nav1.8 gating mechanisms. Arizona bark scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus) venom proteins inhibit Nav1.8 and block pain in grasshopper mice (Onychomys torridus). These proteins provide tools for examining Nav1.8 structure–activity relationships. To identify proteins that inhibit Nav1.8 activity, venom samples were fractioned using liquid chromatography (reversed-phase and ion exchange). A recombinant Nav1.8 clone expressed in ND7/23 cells was used to identify subfractions that inhibited Nav1.8 Na+ current. Mass-spectrometry-based bottom-up proteomic analyses identified unique peptides from inhibitory subfractions. A search of the peptides against the AZ bark scorpion venom gland transcriptome revealed four novel proteins between 40 and 60% conserved with venom proteins from scorpions in four genera (Centruroides, Parabuthus, Androctonus, and Tityus). Ranging from 63 to 82 amino acids, each primary structure includes eight cysteines and a “CXCE” motif, where X = an aromatic residue (tryptophan, tyrosine, or phenylalanine). Electrophysiology data demonstrated that the inhibitory effects of bioactive subfractions can be removed by hyperpolarizing the channels, suggesting that proteins may function as gating modifiers as opposed to pore blockers.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The advent of next-generation sequencing has resulted in transcriptome-based approaches to investigate functionally significant biological components in a variety of non-model organism. This has resulted in the area of “venomics”: a rapidly growing field using combined transcriptomic and proteomic datasets to characterize toxin diversity in a variety of venomous taxa. Ultimately, the transcriptomic portion of these analyses follows very similar pathways after transcriptome assembly often including candidate toxin identification using BLAST, expression level screening, protein sequence alignment, gene tree reconstruction, and characterization of potential toxin function. Here we describe the Python package Venomix, which streamlines these processes using common bioinformatic tools along with ToxProt, a publicly available annotated database comprised of characterized venom proteins. In this study, we use the Venomix pipeline to characterize candidate venom diversity in four phylogenetically distinct organisms, a cone snail (Conidae; Conus sponsalis ), a snake (Viperidae; Echis coloratus ), an ant (Formicidae; Tetramorium bicarinatum ), and a scorpion (Scorpionidae; Urodacus yaschenkoi ). Data on these organisms were sampled from public databases, with each original analysis using different approaches for transcriptome assembly, toxin identification, or gene expression quantification. Venomix recovered numerically more candidate toxin transcripts for three of the four transcriptomes than the original analyses and identified new toxin candidates. In summary, we show that the Venomix package is a useful tool to identify and characterize the diversity of toxin-like transcripts derived from transcriptomic datasets. Venomix is available at: . 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    High‐voltage‐activated calcium (CaV1/CaV2) channels translate action potentials into Ca2+influx in excitable cells to control essential biological processes that include; muscle contraction, synaptic transmission, hormone secretion and activity‐dependent regulation of gene expression. Modulation of CaV1/CaV2 channel activity is a powerful mechanism to regulate physiology, and there are a host of intracellular signalling molecules that tune different aspects of CaVchannel trafficking and gating for this purpose. Beyond normal physiological regulation, the diverse CaVchannel modulatory mechanisms may potentially be co‐opted or interfered with for therapeutic benefits. CaV1/CaV2 channels are potently inhibited by a four‐member sub‐family of Ras‐like GTPases known as RGK (Rad, Rem, Rem2, Gem/Kir) proteins. Understanding the mechanisms by which RGK proteins inhibit CaV1/CaV2 channels has led to the development of novel genetically encoded CaVchannel blockers with unique properties; including, chemo‐ and optogenetic control of channel activity, and blocking channels either on the basis of their subcellular localization or by targeting an auxiliary subunit. These genetically encoded CaVchannel inhibitors have outstanding utility as enabling research tools and potential therapeutics.image

    more » « less
  3. χ-Conotoxins are known for their ability to selectively inhibit norepinephrine transporters, an ability that makes them potential leads for treating various neurological disorders, including neuropathic pain. PnID, a peptide isolated from the venom of Conus pennaceus, shares high sequence homology with previously characterized χ-conotoxins. Whereas previously reported χ-conotoxins seem to only have a single native disulfide bonding pattern, PnID has three native isomers due to the formation of different disulfide bond patterns during its maturation in the venom duct. In this study, the disulfide connectivity and three-dimensional structure of these disulfide isomers were explored using regioselective synthesis, chromatographic coelution, and solution-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Of the native isomers, only the isomer with a ribbon disulfide configuration showed pharmacological activity similar to other χ-conotoxins. This isomer inhibited the rat norepinephrine transporter (IC50 = 10 ± 2 µM) and has the most structural similarity to previously characterized χ-conotoxins. In contrast, the globular isoform of PnID showed more than ten times less activity against this transporter and the beaded isoform did not display any measurable biological activity. This study is the first report of the pharmacological and structural characterization of an χ-conotoxin from a species other than Conus marmoreus and is the first report of the existence of natively-formed conotoxin isomers. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The 20S proteasome (20S) facilitates turnover of most eukaryotic proteins. Substrate entry into the 20S first requires opening of gating loops through binding of HbYX motifs that are present at the C-termini of certain proteasome activators (PAs). The HbYX motif has been predominantly characterized in the archaeal 20S, whereas little is known about the sequence preferences of the human 20S (h20S). Here, we synthesize and screen ~120 HbYX-like peptides, revealing unexpected differences from the archaeal system and defining theh20S recognition sequence as the Y-F/Y (YФ) motif. To gain further insight, we create a functional chimera of the optimized sequence, NLSYYT, fused to the model activator, PA26E102A. A cryo-EM structure of PA26E102A-h20S is used to identify key interactions, including non-canonical contacts and gate-opening mechanisms. Finally, we demonstrate that the YФ sequence preferences are tuned by valency, allowing multivalent PAs to sample greater sequence space. These results expand the model for termini-mediated gating and provide a template for the design ofh20S activators.

    more » « less
  5. Understanding how regulatory mechanisms evolve is critical for understanding the processes that give rise to novel phenotypes. Snake venom systems represent a valuable and tractable model for testing hypotheses related to the evolution of novel regulatory networks, yet the regulatory mechanisms underlying venom production remain poorly understood. Here, we use functional genomics approaches to investigate venom regulatory architecture in the prairie rattlesnake and identify cis -regulatory sequences (enhancers and promoters), trans -regulatory transcription factors, and integrated signaling cascades involved in the regulation of snake venom genes. We find evidence that two conserved vertebrate pathways, the extracellular signal-regulated kinase and unfolded protein response pathways, were co-opted to regulate snake venom. In one large venom gene family (snake venom serine proteases), this co-option was likely facilitated by the activity of transposable elements. Patterns of snake venom gene enhancer conservation, in some cases spanning 50 million yr of lineage divergence, highlight early origins and subsequent lineage-specific adaptations that have accompanied the evolution of venom regulatory architecture. We also identify features of chromatin structure involved in venom regulation, including topologically associated domains and CTCF loops that underscore the potential importance of novel chromatin structure to coevolve when duplicated genes evolve new regulatory control. Our findings provide a model for understanding how novel regulatory systems may evolve through a combination of genomic processes, including tandem duplication of genes and regulatory sequences, cis -regulatory sequence seeding by transposable elements, and diverse transcriptional regulatory proteins controlled by a co-opted regulatory cascade. 
    more » « less