Characterization of three "Birtoxin-like" toxins from the Androctonus amoreuxi scorpion venom.


  • Abbas Najwa
  • Rosso Jean-Pierre
  • Céard Brigitte
  • Belghazi Maya
  • Lebrun Regine
  • Bougis Pierre-Edouard
  • Martin-Eauclaire Marie-France


The venom of the North African scorpion Androctonus amoreuxi (Aam) was analyzed using a combination of gel filtration, C18 reverse phase HPLC together with mass spectrometry analysis and bioassays. Three novel Birtoxin-like (BTX-L) peptides of 58 amino acid residues comprising three disulfide bridges were isolated and chemically characterized. One peptide, AamBTX-L3, induced serious toxic symptoms in mice and was lethal at nanogram quantities using intracerebroventricular injection. The three BTX-L peptides were tested in competition experiments on rat brain synaptosomes against the (125)I-labeled "classical" α- and β-toxins of reference, as well as with the (125)I-KTX, a voltage-gated potassium channel blocker. Only AamBTX-L3 was able to prevent the equilibrium binding of the β-toxin (125)I-Css IV to its receptor site 4 with a IC(50) value of 189 nM. Even if previous electrophysiological data allowed the classification of other BTX-L peptides among the β-type toxins, this report clearly shows that AamBTX-L3 is pharmacologically a β-toxin, which recognizes the voltage-gated Na(+) (Na(v)) channels from central mammalian neurons. In order to uncover the residues functionally essential for interaction between the AamBTX-L3 with the putative receptor site of (125)I-Css IV on Na(v)1.2, molecular models of the three novel Aam BTX-L molecules were made and their surfaces were compared to the already described Css IV biologically interactive surfaces. A hypothesis is given that in BTX-L3, three residues found in the α-helix play a key role during target binding.

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