The voltage-gated Kv1.3 K + channel plays a key role in the activation of T lymphocytes. Kv1.3 blockers selectively suppress immune responses mediated by effector memory T cells, which indicates the great potential of selective Kv1.3 inhibitors in the therapy of certain autoimmune diseases. Anuroctoxin (AnTx), a 35-amino-acid scorpion toxin is a high affinity blocker of Kv1.3, but also blocks Kv1.2 with similar potency. We designed and produced three AnTx variants: ([F32T]-AnTx, [N17A]-AnTx, [N17A/F32T]-AnTx) using solid-phase synthesis with the goal of improving the selectivity of the toxin for Kv1.3 over Kv1.2 while keeping the high affinity for Kv1.3. We used the patch-clamp technique to determine the blocking potency of the synthetic toxins on hKv1.3, mKv1.1, hKv1.2 and hKCa3.1 channels. Of the three variants [N17A/F32T]-AnTx maintained the high affinity of the natural peptide for Kv1.3 but became more than 16000-fold selective over Kv1.2. NMR data and molecular dynamics simulations suggest that the more rigid structure with restricted conformational space of the double substituted toxin compared to the flexible wild-type one is an important determinant of toxin selectivity. Our results provide the foundation for the possibility of the production and future therapeutic application of additional, even more selective toxins targeting various ion channels.
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