WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 9, 2011) -- Spider venom toxins are useful tools for exploring how ion channels operate in the body. These channels control the flow of ions across cell membranes, and are key components in a wide variety of biological processes and human diseases.
A newly identified toxin from the American Funnel Web spider acts on T-type and N-type calcium channels, researchers from the University of California at Riverside have discovered. The toxin offers a new target for studying T-type channels, which play a role in congestive heart failure, hypertension, epilepsy and pain.
"The blocking mechanism of the toxin is different from classical pore blocker toxins and voltage modifier toxins," says lead researcher Xiao Zhang, a postdoc at the Del Webb Center for Neuroscience in La Jolla, Calif. "It indicates a new toxin blocking mechanism on voltage-gated ion channels."
Zhang purified the toxin and created a recombinant version as part of his doctoral research at the University of California, Riverside. "If we can develop a calcium-channel blocker based on this toxin, we could have a new way to identify how these channels work and develop drugs for treating pain and disease," says Zhang.
Source: American Institute of Physics