The Kv1.3 voltage-gated potassium channel regulates membrane potential and calcium signaling in human effector memory T cells that are key mediators of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, subtype-specific Kv1.3 blockers have potential for treatment of autoimmune diseases. Several Kv1.3 channel blockers have been characterized from scorpion venom, all of which have an α/β scaffold stabilized by 3-4 intramolecular disulfide bridges. Chemical synthesis is commonly used for producing these disulfide-rich peptides but this approach is time consuming and not cost effective for production of mutants, fusion proteins, fluorescently tagged toxins, or isotopically labelled peptides for NMR studies. Recombinant production of Kv1.3 blockers in the cytoplasm of E. coli generally necessitates oxidative refolding of the peptides in order to form their native disulfide architecture. An alternative approach that avoids the need for refolding is expression of peptides in the periplasm of E. coli but this often produces low yields. Thus, we developed an efficient Pichia pastoris expression system for production of Kv1.3 blockers using margatoxin (MgTx) and agitoxin-2 (AgTx2) as prototypic examples. The Pichia system enabled these toxins to be obtained in high yield (12-18 mg/L). NMR experiments revealed that the recombinant toxins adopt their native fold without the need for refolding, and electrophysiological recordings demonstrated that they are almost equipotent with the native toxins in blocking KV1.3 (IC50 values of 201±39 pM and 97±3 pM for recombinant AgTx2 and MgTx, respectively). Furthermore, both recombinant toxins inhibited T-lymphocyte proliferation. A MgTx mutant in which the key pharmacophore residue K28 was mutated to alanine was ineffective at blocking KV1.3 and it failed to inhibit T-lymphocyte proliferation. Thus, the approach described here provides an efficient method of producing toxin mutants with a view to engineering Kv1.3 blockers with therapeutic potential.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)