Huwentoxin-IV (HwTx-IV) is a gating modifier peptide toxin from spiders that has weak affinity for the lipid bilayer. As some gating modifier toxins have affinity for model lipid bilayers, a tripartite relationship among gating modifier toxins, voltage-gated ion channels, and the lipid membrane surrounding the channels has been proposed. We previously designed an HwTx-IV analogue (gHwTx-IV) with reduced negative charge and increased hydrophobic surface profile, which displays increased lipid bilayer affinity and in vitro activity at the voltage-gated sodium channel subtype 1.7 (NaV1.7), a channel targeted in pain management. Here, we show that replacements of the positively-charged residues that contribute to the activity of the peptide can improve gHwTx-IV's potency and selectivity for NaV1.7. Using HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV variants, we examined their potency and selectivity at human NaV1.7 and their affinity for the lipid bilayer. [R26A]gHwTx-IV consistently displayed the most improved potency and selectivity for NaV1.7, examined alongside off-target NaVs, compared with HwTx-IV and gHwTx-IV. The lipid affinity of each of the three novel analogues was weaker than that of gHwTx-IV, but stronger than that of HwTx-IV, suggesting a possible relationship between in vitro potency at NaV1.7 and affinity for lipid bilayers. In a murine NaV1.7 engagement model, [R26A]gHwTx-IV exhibited an efficacy comparable with that of native HwTx-IV. In summary, this study reports the development of an HwTx-IV analogue with improved in vitro selectivity for the pain target NaV1.7 and with an in vivo efficacy similar to that of native HwTx-IV.
Agwa, A. J., Tran, P., Mueller, A., Tran, H. N. T., Deuis, J. R., Israel, M. R., ... Schroeder, C. I. (2020). Manipulation of a spider peptide toxin alters its affinity for lipid bilayers and potency and selectivity for voltage-gated sodium channel subtype 1.7. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 295, 5067-5080. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.RA119.012281