Current Pharmaceutical Design vol:14 issue:24 pages:2492-2502
Throughout millions of years of evolution, nature has supplied various organisms with a massive arsenal of venoms to defend themselves against predators or to hunt prey. These venoms are rich cocktails of diverse bioactive compounds with divergent functions, extremely effective in immobilizing or killing the recipient. In fact, venom peptides from various animals have been shown to specifically act on ion channels and other cellular receptors, and impair their normal functioning. Because of their key role in the initiation and propagation of electrical signals in excitable tissue, it is not very surprising that several isoforms of voltage-activated sodium channels are specifically targeted by many of these venom peptides. Therefore, these peptide toxins provide tremendous opportunities to design drugs with a higher efficacy and fewer undesirable side effects. This review puts venom peptides from spiders, scorpions and cone snails that target voltage-activated sodium channels in the spotlight, and addresses their potential therapeutical applications.