Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels: A Prominent Target of Marine Toxins


  • Mackieh Rawan
  • Abou-Nader Rita
  • Wehbe Rim
  • Mattei César
  • Legros Christian
  • Fajloun Ziad
  • Sabatier Jean-Marc


Voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) are considered to be one of the most important ion channels given their remarkable physiological role. VGSCs constitute a family of large transmembrane proteins that allow transmission, generation, and propagation of action potentials. This occurs by conducting Na+ ions through the membrane, supporting cell excitability and communication signals in various systems. As a result, a wide range of coordination and physiological functions, from locomotion to cognition, can be accomplished. Drugs that target and alter the molecular mechanism of VGSCs’ function have highly contributed to the discovery and perception of the function and the structure of this channel. Among those drugs are various marine toxins produced by harmful microorganisms or venomous animals. These toxins have played a key role in understanding the mode of action of VGSCs and in mapping their various allosteric binding sites. Furthermore, marine toxins appear to be an emerging source of therapeutic tools that can relieve pain or treat VGSC-related human channelopathies. Several studies documented the effect of marine toxins on VGSCs as well as their pharmaceutical applications, but none of them underlined the principal marine toxins and their effect on VGSCs. Therefore, this review aims to highlight the neurotoxins produced by marine animals such as pufferfish, shellfish, sea anemone, and cone snail that are active on VGSCs and discuss their pharmaceutical values.

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