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EPRC is a leading institute in Europe for comparative research on public policy, with a particular focus on regional development policies. Spanning 30 European countries, EPRC research programmes have a strong emphasis on applied research and knowledge exchange, including the provision of policy advice to EU institutions and national and sub-national government authorities throughout Europe.

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What can toxins tell us for drug discovery?

Harvey, A.L. and Bradley, K.N. and Cochran, S.A. and Rowan, E.G. and Pratt, J.A. and Quillfeldt, J.A. and Jerusalinsky, D.A. (1998) What can toxins tell us for drug discovery? Toxicon, 36 (11). pp. 1635-1640. ISSN 0041-0101

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Abstract

Toxins are of interest in drug design because the toxins provide three-dimensional templates for creating small molecular mimics with interesting pharmacological properties. Toxins are also useful in drug discovery because they can be used as pharmacological tools to uncover potential therapeutic targets. With their high potency and selectivity, toxins are often more useful in functional experiments than standard pharmacological agents. We have used two groups of neurotoxins, the dendrotoxins and the muscarinic toxins (MTs), to explore the involvement of subtypes of potassium ion channels and muscarinic receptors, respectively, in processes involved in cognition and the changes in neuronal properties with aging. From our current work, quantitative autoradiographic studies with radiolabelled dendrotoxins reveal widespread distribution of binding sites throughout rat brain sections, but few differences exist between young adult and aged rats. However, displacement studies with toxin K, which preferentially binds to the Kv1.1 subtype of cloned potassium channel, show the selective loss of such sites in regions of the hippocampus and septohippocampal pathway with aging. MTs have been tested for effects on performance of rats in memory paradigms. MT2, which activates m1 receptors, improves performance of rats in a step-down inhibitory avoidance test, whereas MT3, which blocks m4 receptors, decreases performance when given into the hippocampus. This is the first clear demonstration of a role for m4 muscarinic receptors in cognition.