Electrophysiological and neurobiochemical evidence for the blockade of a potassium channel by dendrotoxin

  • U. Weller
  • U. Bernhardt
  • D. Siemen
  • F. Dreyer
  • W. Vogel
  • E. Habermann


The effects of dendrotoxin (DTX), a toxic peptide from Dendroaspis angusticeps venom, were studied electrophysiologically on peripheral frog nerve fibres, and biochemically on large synaptosomes from rat brain.
  1. 1.

    On nerve fibres, DTX reduced the amplitude and prolonged the duration of the action potential; even at 0.1 nmol/l DTX produced significant effects. Maximum block of potassium currents occurred at about 30 nmol/l. Turning on of the remaining current was slowed. Reversibility was incomplete. The reduction of potassium currents was between 31% and 85% at 85 nmol/l DTX (n=8). The remainder appeared to be resistant to DTX. Sodium channels were not affected.

  2. 2.

    On large synaptosomes DTX (above 1 nmol/l) produced a slight depolarization, indicated by an outward shift of the lipophilic cation tetraphenylphosphonium, and promoted the release of radioactivity after preloading with [3H] GABA. DTX had similar potency but lower efficacy in this respect than sea anemone toxin II (ATX II). In contrast to the effects of ATX II, those due to DTX were only partially inhibited by tetrodotoxin. The actions of 4-aminopyridine resembled those of DTX, but the latter was about 500 times more potent.


The electrophysiological data provide direct evidence for blockade of a potassium channel by DTX. This action is sufficient to explain the biochemical observations, although additional effects on synaptosomes cannot be excluded.

Key words

Dendrotoxin Potassium channel Nerve fibre Depolarization GABA 



aminooxy acetic acid


Anemonia sulcata toxin II


N,N-bis-(2-hydroxyethyl)-2-amino ethane sulfonic acid




ethyleneglycol-bis(β-aminoethylether) N,N′-tetraacetic acid


γ-amino-n-butyric acid


N-2-hydroxyethylpiperazine-N′-2-ethane sulfonic acid




tetraethylammonium chloride


tetraphenylphosphonium bromide






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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • U. Weller
    • 1
  • U. Bernhardt
    • 2
  • D. Siemen
    • 2
  • F. Dreyer
    • 1
  • W. Vogel
    • 2
  • E. Habermann
    • 1
  1. 1.Rudolf-Buchheim-Institut für PharmakologieJustus-Liebig-Universität GießenGießenFederal Republic of Germany
  2. 2.Physiologisches InstitutJustus-Liebig-Universität GießenGießenFederal Republic of Germany

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