Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cone snails and spiders help neurobiologists investigate ion channels

Date:
February 15, 2010
Source:
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Summary:
Neurotoxins from cone snails and spiders help neurobiologists to investigate the function of ion channels in neurons. They have developed a system which for the first time allows the targeted, long-lasting investigation of ion channel function in mammals and also their blockade with neurotoxins. In transgenic mice they succeeded in blocking chronic pain by introducing a toxin gene into the organism.

Neurotoxins of cone snails and spiders block neurotransmission and chronic pain.
Credit: Graphics: Sebastian Auer/Copyright: MDC

Neurotoxins from cone snails and spiders help neurobiologists Sebastian Auer, Annika S. Stürzebecher and Dr. Ines Ibañez-Tallon of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, to investigate the function of ion channels in neurons. Ion channels in the cell membrane enable cells to communicate with their environment and are therefore of vital importance.

Related Articles


The MDC researchers have developed a system which for the first time allows the targeted, long-lasting investigation of ion channel function in mammals and also the blockade of the ion channels with neurotoxins. In transgenic mice they succeeded in blocking chronic pain by introducing a toxin gene into the organism.

There are approximately 500 species of cone snails, each producing 50 -- 200 different conotoxins. A similar number of peptide toxins are produced by snakes, spiders, sea anemones, scorpions and other venomous animals. The animals use the neurotoxins to paralyze their prey.

Scientists estimate that more than 100,000 neurotoxins exist. They have become a topic of enormous research interest: Using neurotoxins researchers can target different ion channels, receptors and other signaling molecules and characterize their physiological function.

This kind of research can also give them insight into disease processes and eventually help them to find new therapies to eventually block hyperactive ion channels. For instance, a compound (Ziconotide) based on the toxin of a cone snail is already used to treat severe chronic pain in patients.

Dr. Ibañez-Tallon's research group is concentrating on two ion channels in the membrane of neurons which are activated by electric stimulation (action potential). Once activated, they allow the influx of calcium ions into the neuron, and the cell then releases chemicals (neurotransmitters), which send the signal to the next neuron.

During the last decades soluble neurotoxins have greatly helped in the characterization of ion channels and receptors because of their ability to specifically bind and inhibit these channels. However, soluble neurotoxins can only be applied for limited time, and their activity cannot be directed to specific cells.

Sebastian Auer, Annika S. Stürzebecher and Dr. Ibañez-Tallon managed to circumvent this problem with genetic engineering. Using lentiviruses they developed a shuttle to deliver the genes of cone snail and spider toxins into the neurons. The result: The neurons now long-lastingly produce toxins which directly bind to the calcium ion channels the researchers want to investigate. This was the first step -- the targeted and long-lasting binding of the toxins to a specific ion channel in the cell culture.

Secondly, the researchers were able to demonstrate that with their tool they can also express toxin genes in animals in a targeted way and also lastingly characterize ion channels. In transgenic mice they were able to block certain calcium ion channels with their toxins and thus block chronic pain.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Auer et al. Silencing neurotransmission with membrane-tethered toxins. Nature Methods, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1425

Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "Cone snails and spiders help neurobiologists investigate ion channels." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100210101510.htm>.
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. (2010, February 15). Cone snails and spiders help neurobiologists investigate ion channels. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100210101510.htm
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "Cone snails and spiders help neurobiologists investigate ion channels." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100210101510.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Oxfam Calls for Massive Aid for Ebola-Hit West Africa

Oxfam Calls for Massive Aid for Ebola-Hit West Africa

AFP (Jan. 29, 2015) — Oxfam International has called for a multi-million dollar post-Ebola "Marshall Plan", with financial support given by wealthy countries, to help Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to recover. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are We Winning The Fight Against Ebola?

Are We Winning The Fight Against Ebola?

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) — The World Health Organization announced the fight against Ebola has entered its second phase as the number of cases per week has steadily dropped. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Calif. Health Officials Campaign Against E-Cigarettes

Calif. Health Officials Campaign Against E-Cigarettes

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) — The California Health Department says e-cigarettes are a public health risk for both smokers and those who inhale e-cig smoke secondhand. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Measles Scare Sends 66 Calif. Students Home

Measles Scare Sends 66 Calif. Students Home

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) — Officials say 66 students at a Southern California high school have been told to stay home through the end of next week because they may have been exposed to measles and are not vaccinated. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins