High-Affinity α-Conotoxin PnIA Analogs Designed on the Basis of the Protein Surface Topography Method.
Despite some success for small molecules, elucidating structure–function relationships for biologically active peptides — the ligands for various targets in the organism — remains a great challenge and calls for the development of novel approaches. Some of us recently proposed the Protein Surface Topography (PST) approach, which benefits from a simplified representation of biomolecules’ surface as projection maps, which enables the exposure of the structure–function dependencies. Here, we use PST to uncover the “activity pattern” in α-conotoxins — neuroactive peptides that effectively target nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). PST was applied in order to design several variants of the α-conotoxin PnIA, which were synthesized and thoroughly studied. Among the best was PnIA[R9, L10], which exhibits nanomolar affinity for the α7 nAChR, selectivity and a slow wash-out from this target. Importantly, these mutations could hardly be delineated by “standard” structure-based drug design. The proposed combination of PST with a set of experiments proved very efficient for the rational construction of new bioactive molecules.