New tool developed to study ion channels

S├ębastien Auer1, 4, S St rzebecher1 Annika, 4, Ren J ttner2, Julio Santos-Torres1, Christina Hanack1, Frahm1 Silke Beate Liehl1 S & Iba-ez Tallon1Cone snails and spiders neurotoxins help neurobiologists Sebastian Auer, S. Annika Sturzebecher and Ines Ibanez-Tallon Dr. Max Delbr ck Center for Molecular Medicine Berlin-Buch, Germany, to study the function of ion channels in neurons. MDC researchers have developed a system that allows for the first time, long-term objective investigation of ion channels in mammals and also the blocking of ion channels with neurotoxins. Transgenic mice, were able to block chronic pain by introducing a toxin gene in the organism *.

Such research may also provide an overview of disease processes and possibly help them find new treatments to block ion channels may be hyperactive. For example, a compound on the basis of the cone snail toxin is already used for the treatment of chronic severe pain in patients.

There are about 500 species of cone snails, each producing different conotoxins 50-200. A similar number of peptide toxins are produced by snakes, spiders, sea anemones, scorpions and other venomous animals. The animals use neurotoxins to paralyze their prey.

Sebastian Auer, Annika S. St rzebecher and Dr. Iba ez-Tallon managed to circumvent this problem by genetic engineering. Using lentiviruses have developed a shuttle service to deliver the cone snail toxin genes and neurons in the spider. It ‘was the first step – the link target and long-term toxins to a specific ion channel in the cell culture.

Research Group Dr. Iba ez-Tallon focuses on two ion channels in the membrane of neurons that are activated by electrical stimulation . Once activated, allowing the influx of calcium ions into the neuron and the cell then releases chemicals , which sends the signal to the neuron.

In recent decades soluble neurotoxins have contributed to the characterization of ion channels and receptors for their ability to bind specifically and inhibit these channels. However, soluble neurotoxins can be applied for a limited time, and their activity can not be directed to specific cells.

1Molecular 2Developmental Neurobiology Group and Neurobiology Group, Department of Neuroscience, Center for Molecular Max Delbr ck Medicine in Berlin, Germany. 3Present address: Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, Switzerland.

4These authors contributed equally to this work.