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Twenty years of dendrotoxins

Harvey, A L (2001) Twenty years of dendrotoxins. Toxicon, 39 (1). pp. 15-26. ISSN 0041-0101

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Abstract

Dendrotoxins are small proteins that were isolated 20 years ago from mamba (Dendroaspis) snake venoms (Harvey, A.L., Karlsson, E., 1980. Dendrotoxin from the venom of the green mamba, Dendroaspis angusticeps: a neurotoxin that enhances acetylcholine release at neuromuscular junctions. Naunyn-Schmiedebergs Arch. Pharmacol. 312, 1-6.). Subsequently, a family of related proteins was found in mamba venoms and shown to be homologous to Kunitz-type serine protease inhibitors, such as aprotinin. The dendrotoxins contain 57-60 amino acid residues cross-linked by three disulphide bridges. The dendrotoxins have little or no anti-protease activity, but they were demonstrated to block particular subtypes of voltage-dependent potassium channels in neurons. Studies with cloned K(+) channels indicate that alpha-dendrotoxin from green mamba Dendroaspis angusticeps blocks Kv1.1, Kv1.2 and Kv1.6 channels in the nanomolar range, whereas toxin K from the black mamba Dendroaspis polylepis preferentially blocks Kv1.1 channels. Structural analogues of dendrotoxins have helped to define the molecular recognition properties of different types of K(+) channels, and radiolabelled dendrotoxins have also been useful in helping to discover toxins from other sources that bind to K(+) channels. Because dendrotoxins are useful markers of subtypes of K(+) channels in vivo, dendrotoxins have become widely used as probes for studying the function of K(+) channels in physiology and pathophysiology.