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Naja atra cobrotoxin and cardiotoxin 3 (CTX3) exhibit neurotoxicity and cytotoxicity, respectively. In the present study, we aimed to investigate whether the carboxyl groups of cobrotoxin play a role in structural constraints, thereby preventing cobrotoxin from exhibiting cytotoxic activity. Six of the seven carboxyl groups in cobrotoxin were conjugated with semicarbazide. Measurement of circular dichroism spectra and Trp fluorescence quenching showed that the gross conformation of semicarbazide-modified cobrotoxin (SEM-cobrotoxin) and cobrotoxin differed. In sharp contrast to cobrotoxin, SEM-cobrotoxin demonstrated membrane-damaging activity and cytotoxicity, which are feature more characteristic of CTX3. Furthermore, both SEM-cobrotoxin and CTX3 induced cell death through AMPK activation. Analyses of the interaction between polydiacetylene/lipid vesicles and fluorescence-labeled lipids revealed that SEM-cobrotoxin and cobrotoxin adopted different membrane-bound states. The structural characteristics of SEM-cobrotoxin were similar to those of CTX3, including trifluoroethanol (TFE)-induced structural transformation and membrane binding-induced conformational change. Conversely, cobrotoxin was insensitive to the TFE-induced effect. Collectively, the data of this study indicate that blocking negatively charged residues confers cobrotoxin with membrane-damaging activity and cytotoxicity. The findings also suggest that the structural constraints imposed by carboxyl groups control the functional properties of snake venom α-neurotoxins during the divergent evolution of snake venom neurotoxins and cardiotoxins. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Yi-Jun Shi, Jing-Ting Chiou, Liang-Jun Wang, Chia-Hui Huang, Yuan-Chin Lee, Ying-Jung Chen, Long-Sen Chang. Blocking of negative charged carboxyl groups converts Naja atra neurotoxin to cardiotoxin-like protein. International journal of biological macromolecules. 2020 Dec 01;164:2953-2963

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PMID: 32846183

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