Biochemistry (Moscow)

, Volume 80, Issue 13, pp 1764–1799 | Cite as

Diversity of Potassium Channel Ligands: Focus on Scorpion Toxins

  • A. I. KuzmenkovEmail author
  • E. V. Grishin
  • A. A. Vassilevski


Potassium (K+) channels are a widespread superfamily of integral membrane proteins that mediate selective transport of K+ ions through the cell membrane. They have been found in all living organisms from bacteria to higher multicellular animals, including humans. Not surprisingly, K+ channels bind ligands of different nature, such as metal ions, low molecular mass compounds, venom-derived peptides, and antibodies. Functionally these substances can be K+ channel pore blockers or modulators. Representatives of the first group occlude the channel pore, like a cork in a bottle, while the second group of ligands alters the operation of channels without physically blocking the ion current. A rich source of K+ channel ligands is venom of different animals: snakes, sea anemones, cone snails, bees, spiders, and scorpions. More than a half of the known K+ channel ligands of polypeptide nature are scorpion toxins (KTx), all of which are pore blockers. These compounds have become an indispensable molecular tool for the study of K+ channel structure and function. A recent special interest is the possibility of toxin application as drugs to treat diseases involving K+ channels or related to their dysfunction (channelopathies).

Key words

ion channel potassium channel ligand pore blocker modulator venom scorpion toxin 





large-conductance calcium-activated K+ channels


cysteine-stabilized helix-loop-helix


cysteine-stabilized α-helix β-sheet


inhibitor cystine knot


intermediate-conductance calcium-activated K+ channels

K+ channels

potassium channels


two-pore-domain K+ channels


inward-rectifier K+ channels


polypeptide K+ channel blockers from scorpion venom


voltage-gated K+ channels


reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography


small-conductance calcium-activated K+ channels




transmembrane (segment).


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Copyright information

© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. I. Kuzmenkov
    • 1
    Email author
  • E. V. Grishin
    • 1
  • A. A. Vassilevski
    • 1
  1. 1.Shemyakin–Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic ChemistryRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia

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