Recombinant production, bioconjugation and membrane binding studies of Pn3a, a selective Nav1.7 inhibitor
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Chronic pain is a common and often debilitating condition. Existing treatments are either inefficacious or associated with a wide range of side effects. The progress on developing safer and more effective analgesics has been slow, in large part due to our limited understanding of the physiological mechanisms underlying pain in different diseases. Generation and propagation of action potentials is a central component of pain sensation and voltage-gated sodium channels (NaVs) play a critical role in this process. In particular, NaV subtype 1.7, has emerged as a promising universal target for the treatment of pain.
Recently, a spider venom peptide, μ-TRTX-Pn3a, was found to be a highly selective inhibitor of NaV1.7. Here, we report the first recombinant expression method for Pn3a in a bacterial host, which provides an inexpensive route to production. Furthermore, we have developed a method for bio-conjugation of our recombinantly produced Pn3a using sortase A mediated ligation, providing avenues for further pre-clinical development.
We demonstrate how heterologous expression in bacteria enables facile isotope labelling of Pn3a, which allowed us to study the membrane binding properties of the peptide by high-resolution solution-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy using a recently developed lipid nanodisc system. The heteronuclear NMR data indicate that the C-terminal region of the peptide undergoes a conformational change upon lipid binding. The membrane binding properties of Pn3a are further validated using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), which revealed that Pn3a binds to zwitterionic planar lipid bilayers with thermodynamics that are largely driven by enthalpic contributions.