The α9 and α10 nicotinic cholinergic subunits assemble to form the receptor believed to mediate synaptic transmission between efferent olivocochlear fibers and hair cells of the cochlea, one of the few examples of postsynaptic function for a non-muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR). However, it has been suggested that the expression profile of α9 and α10 overlaps with that of α7 in the cochlea and in sites such as dorsal root ganglion neurons, peripheral blood lymphocytes, developing thymocytes, and skin. We now report the cloning, total synthesis, and characterization of a novel toxin α-conotoxin PeIA that discriminates between α9α10 and α7 nAChRs. This is the first toxin to be identified from Conus pergrandis, a species found in deep waters of the Western Pacific. α-Conotoxin PeIA displayed a 260-fold higher selectivity for α-bungarotoxin-sensitive α9α10 nAChRs compared with α-bungarotoxin-sensitive α7 receptors. The IC50 of the toxin was 6.9 ± 0.5 nM and 4.4 ± 0.5 nM for recombinant α9α10 and wild-type hair cell nAChRs, respectively. α-Conotoxin PeIA bears high resemblance to α-conotoxins MII and GIC isolated from Conus magus and Conus geographus, respectively. However, neither α-conotoxin MII nor α-conotoxin GIC at concentrations of 10 μM blocked acetylcholine responses elicited in Xenopus oocytes injected with the α9 and α10 subunits. Among neuronal non-α-bungarotoxin- sensitive receptors, α-conotoxin PeIA was also active at α3β2 receptors and chimeric α6/α3β2β3 receptors. α-Conotoxin PeIA represents a novel probe to differentiate responses mediated either through α9α10 or α7 nAChRs in those tissues where both receptors are expressed.
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