Ph.D., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Inhibition of T-type calcium channels (CaV3) prevents development of diseases related to cardiovascular and nerve systems. Further, knockout animal studies have revealed that some diseases are mediated by specific subtypes of CaV3. However, subtype-specific CaV3 inhibitors for therapeutic purposes or for studying the physiological roles of CaV3 subtypes are missing. To bridge this gap, we employed our spider venom library and uncovered that Avicularia spec. ("Amazonas Purple", Peru) tarantula venom inhibited specific T-type CaV channel subtypes. By using chromatographic and mass-spectrometric techniques, we isolated and sequenced the active toxin ω-Avsp1a, a C-terminally amidated 36 residue peptide with a molecular weight of 4224.91 Da, which comprised the major peak in the venom. Both native (4.1 μM) and synthetic ω-Avsp1a (10 μM) inhibited 90% of CaV3.1 and CaV3.3, but only 25% of CaV3.2 currents. In order to investigate the toxin binding site, we generated a range of chimeric channels from the less sensitive CaV3.2 and more sensitive CaV3.3. Our results suggest that domain-1 of CaV3.3 is important for the inhibitory effect of ω-Avsp1a on T-type calcium channels. Further studies revealed that a leucine of T-type calcium channels is crucial for the inhibitory effect of ω-Avsp1a.