Three-finger proteins from snakes and humans acting on nicotinic receptors: old and new.
The first toxin to give rise to the three-finger protein (TFP) family was α-bungarotoxin (α-Bgt) from Bungarus multicinctus krait venom. α-Bgt was crucial for research on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and in this Review article we focus on present data for snake venom TFPs and those of the Ly6/uPAR family from mammalians (membrane-bound Lynx1 and secreted SLURP-1) interacting with nAChRs. Recently isolated from Bungarus candidus venom, αδ-bungarotoxins differ from α-Bgt: they bind more reversibly and distinguish two binding sites in Torpedo californica nAChR. Naja kaouthia α-cobratoxin, classical blocker of nAChRs, was shown to inhibit certain GABA-A receptor subtypes while α-cobratoxin dimer with 2 intermolecular disulphides has a novel type of 3D structure. Non-conventional toxin WTX has additional 5th disulphide not in the central loop, as α-Bgt, but in the N-terminal loop, like all Ly6/uPAR proteins, and inhibits α7 and Torpedo nAChRs. A water-soluble form of Lynx1, ws-Lynx1, was expressed in E. coli, its H-NMR structure and binding to several nAChRs determined. For SLURP-1, similar information was obtained with its recombinant analogue rSLURP-1. A common feature of ws-Lynx1, rSLURP-1 and WTX is their activity against nAChRs and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors. Synthetic SLURP-1, identical to the natural protein, demonstrated some differences from rSLURP-1 in distinguishing nAChR subtypes. The loop II fragment of the Lynx1 was synthesized having the same µM affinity for the Torpedo nAChR as ws-Lynx1. This review illustrates the productivity of parallel research of nAChR interactions with the two TFP groups.