Identification of a locality in snake venom α-neurotoxins with a singificant compositional similarity to marine snail α-conotoxins: implications for evolution and structure/activity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


α-neurotoxins from elapid snake venoms and α-conotoxins from marine snails bind specifically and with high affinity to nicotinic cholinoceptors. Although both types of toxin are polypeptides, there is more than a fourfold difference in size between the two and no clear sequence homology is evident. A systematic computer search of the three-dimensional structure of erabutoxin b (an α-neurotoxin from the false sea snake Laticauda semifasciata) was performed to identify the locality that most closely matched the amino acid compositions of the smaller α-conotoxins (from the marine snails Conus magus and Conus geographus). The area of greatest similarity centered on residue position 25 of erabutoxin b, a locale that is conserved throughout the snake α-neurotoxins and their homologues. Six Proteins unrelated to erabutoxin b were compared to the α-conotoxins to show that the extent of the erabutoxin b/α-conotoxin match was too high to be coincidental. Homologues of erabutoxin b, namely α-cobratoxin from Naja naja siamensis and cytotoxin VII4 from Naja mossambica mossambica, were also analyzed. The extent of the matching with the α-conotoxins decreased in the series erabutoxin b>α-cobratoxin>cytotoxin VII4, and this also relates the order of similarity to the pharmacological properties of the α-conotoxins. The α-conotoxin-like area of the snake α-neurotoxins is peripheral to the site previously considered important for binding to the cholinoceptor, even though it seems to represent the focus of evolutionary convergence between the two types of neurotoxin. The area of resemblance does, however, have strong associations with the conformational behavior of the snake toxins. Hence, the outcome of this study has important consequences for the current ideas on snake α-neurotoxin structure/activity relationships and the evolutionary origins of neurotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-366
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 1989


  • α-Conotoxin
  • α-Neurotoxin
  • erabutoxin b
  • evolution
  • venom

Cite this