Role of disulfide bridges in the folding, structure and biological activity of ω-conotoxin GVIA

James P. Flinn, Paul K. Pallaghy, Michael J. Lew, Roger Murphy, James A. Angus, Raymond S. Norton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


ω-Conotoxin GVIA (GVIA), an N-type calcium channel blocker from the cone shell Conus geographus, is a 27 residue polypeptide cross-linked by three disulfide bonds. Here, we report the synthesis, structural analysis by 1H NMR and bioassay of analogues of GVIA with disulfide bridge deletions and N- and C-terminal truncations. Two analogues that retain the crucial Lys-2 and Tyr-13 residues in loops constrained by two native disulfide bridges were synthesised using orthogonal protection of cysteine residues. In the first analogue, the Cys-15-Cys-26 disulfide bridge was deleted (by replacing the appropriate Cys residues with Ser), while in the second, this disulfide bridge and the eight C-terminal residues were deleted. No activity was detected for either analogue in a rat vas deferens assay, which measures N- type calcium channel activity in sympathetic nerve, and NMR studies showed that this was due to a gross loss of secondary and tertiary structure. Five inactive analogues that were synthesised without orthogonal protection of Cys residues as part of a previous study (Flinn et al. (1995) J. Pept. Sci. 1, 379-384) were also investigated. Three had single disulfide deletions (via Ser substitutions) and two had N- or C-terminal deletions in addition to the disulfide deletion. Peptide mapping and NMR analyses demonstrated that at least four of these analogues had non-native disulfide pairings, which presumably accounts for their lack of activity. The NMR studies also showed that all five analogues had substantially altered tertiary structures, although the backbone chemical shifts and nuclear Overhauser enhancements (NOEs) implied that native-like turn structures persisted in some of these analogues despite the non-native disulfide pairings. This work demonstrates the importance of the disulfides in ω-conotoxin folding and shows that the Cys-15-Cys-26 disulfide is essential for activity in GVIA. The NMR analyses also emphasise that backbone chemical shifts and short- and medium-range NOEs are dictated largely by local secondary structure elements and are not necessarily reliable monitors of the tertiary fold.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-190
Number of pages14
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Protein Structure and Molecular Enzymology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioassay
  • Conotoxin
  • Disulfide bridge
  • NMR spectroscopy
  • Peptide synthesis
  • Polypeptide minimisation

Cite this