Identification of a novel class of conotoxins defined as V-conotoxins with a unique cysteine pattern and signal peptide sequence

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Abstract

Cone snails are predatory gastropod mollusks distributed in all tropical marine habitats with a highly sophisticated defense strategy using small peptides in their venoms. Here, we report the discovery and initial characterization of the V-superfamily conotoxins. A novel conotoxin vi15a was purified from the venom of a worm-hunting species Conus virgo. The sequence of vi15a was determined to have a unique arrangement of cysteine residues (C-C-CC-C-C-C-C), which defines the new V-superfamily conotoxins. The cDNA of vi15a was cloned with RACE method. Its unique signal peptide sequence led to the cloning of another V-superfamily conotoxin, Vt15.1, from Conus vitulinus. These results, as well as the existence of Lt15.1 from Conus litteratus and ca15a from Conus caracteristicus with the same cysteine pattern, suggest that V-superfamily might be a large and diverse group of peptides widely distributed in different Conus species. Like other eight Cys-containing toxins, V-superfamily conotoxins might also adopt an “ICK+1” disulfide bond connectivity. The identification of this novel class of conotoxins will certainly improve our understanding of the structure diversity of disulfide rich toxins.

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