Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 79, Issue 1, pp 1-9

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Toxins from cone snails: properties, applications and biotechnological production

  • Stefan BeckerAffiliated withDepartment of NMR-based Structural Biology, Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry
  • , Heinrich TerlauAffiliated withInstitute for Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein Email author 


Cone snails are marine predators that use venoms to immobilize their prey. The venoms of these mollusks contain a cocktail of peptides that mainly target different voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels. Typically, conopeptides consist of ten to 30 amino acids but conopeptides with more than 60 amino acids have also been described. Due to their extraordinary pharmacological properties, conopeptides gained increasing interest in recent years. There are several conopeptides used in clinical trials and one peptide has received approval for the treatment of pain. Accordingly, there is an increasing need for the production of these peptides. So far, most individual conopeptides are synthesized using solid phase peptide synthesis. Here, we describe that at least some of these peptides can be obtained using prokaryotic or eukaryotic expression systems. This opens the possibility for biotechnological production of also larger amounts of long chain conopeptides for the use of these peptides in research and medical applications.