Structure and pharmacology of spider venom neurotoxins.Biochimie. 2000 Sep-Oct; 82(9-10):893-907.B
Spider venoms are complex mixtures of neurotoxic peptides, proteins and low molecular mass organic molecules. Their neurotoxic activity is due to the interaction of the venom components with cellular receptors, in particular ion channels. Spider venoms have proven to be a rich source of highly specific peptide ligands for selected subtypes of potassium, sodium and calcium channels, and these toxins have been used to elucidate the structure and physiological roles of the channels in excitable and non-excitable cells. Spider peptides show great variability in their pharmacological activity and primary structure but relative homogeneity in their secondary structure. Following diverse molecular evolution mechanisms, and in particular selective hypermutation, short spider peptides appear to have functionally diversified while retaining a conserved molecular scaffold. This paper reviews the composition and pharmacology of spider venoms with emphasis on polypeptide toxin structure, mode of action and molecular evolution.