Modulation of conotoxin structure and function is achieved through a multienzyme complex in the venom glands of cone snails

Helena Safavi-Hemami, Dhana G Gorasia, Andrew M Steiner, Nicholas Andrew Williamson, John Karas, Joanna Gajewiak, Baldomero Marquez Olivera, Grzegorz Bulaj, Anthony Wayne Purcell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The oxidative folding of large polypeptides has been investigated in detail; however, comparatively little is known about the enzyme-assisted folding of small, disulfide-containing peptide substrates. To investigate the concerted effect of multiple enzymes on the folding of small disulfide-rich peptides, we sequenced and expressed protein-disulfide isomerase (PDI), peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans isomerase, and immunoglobulin-binding protein (BiP) from Conus venom glands. Conus PDI was shown to catalyze the oxidation and reduction of disulfide bonds in two conotoxins, alpha-GI and alpha-ImI. Oxidative folding rates were further increased in the presence of Conus PPI with the maximum effect observed in the presence of both enzymes. In contrast, Conus BiP was only observed to assist folding in the presence of microsomes, suggesting that additional co-factors were involved. The identification of a complex between BiP, PDI, and nascent conotoxins further suggests that the folding and assembly of conotoxins is a highly regulated multienzyme-assisted process. Unexpectedly, all three enzymes contributed to the folding of the ribbon isomer of alpha-ImI. Here, we identify this alternative disulfide-linked species in the venom of Conus imperialis, providing the first evidence for the existence of a non-native peptide isomer in the venom of cone snails. Thus, ER-resident enzymes act in concert to accelerate the oxidative folding of conotoxins and modulate their conformation and function by reconfiguring disulfide connectivities. This study has evaluated the role of a number of ER-resident enzymes in the folding of conotoxins, providing novel insights into the enzyme-guided assembly of these small, disulfide-rich peptides.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34288 - 34303
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number41
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this