The three-dimensional structure of conotoxin GIIIA, an important constituent of the venom from the marine hunting snail Conus geographus L., was determined in aqueous solution by two-dimensional proton nuclear magnetic resonance and simulated annealing based methods. On the basis of 162 assigned nuclear Overhauser effect (NOE) connectivities obtained at the medium field strength frequency of 400 MHz, 74 final distance constraints of sequential and tertiary ones were derived and used together with 18 torsion angle (ϕ, χ1) constraints and 9 distance constraints derived from disulfide bridges. A total of 32 converged structures were obtained from 200 runs of calculations. The atomic root-mean-square (RMS) difference about the mean coordinate positions (excluding the terminal residues 1 and 22) is 0.8 Â for backbone atoms (N, Cα, C). Conotoxin GIIIA is characterized by a particular folding of the 22 amino acid peptidic chain, which is stabilized by three disulfide bridges arranged in cage at the center of a discoidal structure of approximately 20-Å diameter. The seven cationic side chains of lysine and arginine residues project radially into the solvent and form potential sites of interaction with the skeletal muscle sodium channel for which the toxin is a strong inhibitor. The present results provide a molecular basis to elucidate the remarkable physiological properties of this neurotoxin.
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