Protein & Cell

, Volume 2, Issue 6, pp 437–444 | Cite as

Exploring the obscure profiles of pharmacological binding sites on voltage-gated sodium channels by BmK neurotoxins



Diverse subtypes of voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) have been found throughout tissues of the brain, muscles and the heart. Neurotoxins extracted from the venom of the Asian scorpion Buthus martensi Karsch (BmK) act as sodium channel-specific modulators and have therefore been widely used to study VGSCs. α-type neurotoxins, named BmK I, BmK αIV and BmK abT, bind to receptor site-3 on VGSCs and can strongly prolong the inactivation phase of VGSCs. In contrast, β-type neurotoxins, named BmK AS, BmK AS-1, BmK IT and BmK IT2, occupy receptor site-4 on VGSCs and can suppress peak currents and hyperpolarize the activation kinetics of sodium channels. Accumulating evidence from binding assays of scorpion neurotoxins on VGSCs, however, indicate that pharmacological sensitivity of VGSC subtypes to different modulators is much more complex than that suggested by the simple α-type and β-type neurotoxin distinction. Exploring the mechanisms of possible dynamic interactions between site 3-/4-specific modulators and region- and/or species-specific subtypes of VGSCs would therefore greatly expand our understanding of the physiological and pharmacological properties of diverse VGSCs. In this review, we discuss the pharmacological and structural diversity of VGSCs as revealed by studies exploring the binding properties and cross-competitive binding of site 3- or site 4-specific modulators in VGSC subtypes in synaptosomes from distinct tissues of diverse species.


voltage-gated sodium channel receptor sites scorpion neurotoxins 


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© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Neuropharmacology and NeurotoxicologyShanghai UniversityShanghaiChina

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