Computational Structural Pharmacology and Toxicology of Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels
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Voltage-gated sodium channels are targets for many toxins and medically important drugs. Despite decades of intensive studies in industry and academia, atomic mechanisms of action are still not completely understood. The major cause is a lack of high-resolution structures of eukaryotic channels and their complexes with ligands. In these circumstances a useful approach is homology modeling that employs as templates X-ray structures of potassium channels and prokaryotic sodium channels. On one hand, due to inherent limitations of this approach, results should be treated with caution. In particular, models should be tested against relevant experimental data. On the other hand, docking of drugs and toxins in homology models provides a unique possibility to integrate diverse experimental data provided by mutational analysis, electrophysiology, and studies of structure-activity relations. Here we describe how homology modeling advanced our understanding of mechanisms of several classes of ligands. These include tetrodotoxins and mu-conotoxins that block the outer pore, local anesthetics that block of the inner pore, batrachotoxin that binds in the inner pore but, paradoxically, activates the channel, pyrethroid insecticides that activate the channel by binding at lipid-exposed repeat interfaces, and scorpion alpha and beta-toxins, which bind between the pore and voltage-sensing domains and modify the channel gating. We emphasize importance of experimental data for elaborating the models.
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