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Manipulation of a spider peptide toxin alters its affinity for lipid bilayers and potency and selectivity for voltage-gated sodium channel subtype 1.7

      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.

      Introduction

      Voltage-gated sodium channels (NaVs)
      The abbreviations used are: NaV
      voltage-gated sodium channel
      GMT
      gating modifier toxin
      FLIPR
      fluorescence imaging plate reader
      POPC
      1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine
      POPS
      1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-l-serine
      SPR
      surface plasmon resonance
      TIPS
      triisopropylsilane
      PDB
      Protein Data Bank
      RP-HPLC
      reverse-phase HPLC
      Acm
      acetamidomethyl
      4-MeBzl
      4-methylbenzyl
      Trt
      S-trityl
      ACN
      acetonitrile
      tBu
      t-butyl
      Boc
      t-butoxycarbonyl
      HwTx-IV
      huwentoxin-IV
      ProTx-II
      protoxin-II
      HF
      hydrogen fluoride
      PSS
      physiological salt solution
      P/L
      peptide/lipid.
      are involved in almost all aspects of human physiology, in particular in initiation and propagation of neurotransmission. To date, nine NaV subtypes (NaV1.1–1.9) have been described based on their distribution and physiological function (
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      ). The NaV architecture is typified by four domains (domains I–IV), connected via intracellular loops of various lengths, with each domain containing six segments (S) such that S1–S4 form the voltage sensor domains, and S5 and S6 form the pore domain (Fig. 1A) (
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      ). Because of high-sequence homology between subtypes NaV1.1–1.7 (NaV1.8 and NaV1.9 display low-sequence homology across known binding sites) (Fig. 1C) (
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      ), only highly-specific inhibitors would be of interest in order to avoid unwanted off-target effects.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1Voltage-gated sodium channels and spider gating modifier toxins. A, NaV domains I–IV and transmembrane segments S1–S6 are shown. Extracellular loops between S1 and S2 (green), S3 and S4 (red), and S5 and S6 (black) are also shown. Figure was adapted from Agwa et al. (
      • Agwa A.J.
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      Gating modifier toxin interactions with ion channels and lipid bilayers: is the trimolecular complex real?.
      ). B, gHwTx-IV (PDB code 5TLR) is shown as a representative GMT with a surface profile highlighting residues forming the hydrophobic patch (green) and the positively-charged ring (blue). A ribbon representation of gHwTx-IV is also shown with cystines forming the inhibitor cystine knot motif labeled in roman numerals. The loops formed by the disulfide bridges (yellow) are also highlighted as follows: loop 1, black; loop 2, purple; loop 3, gray; and loop 4, blue. The positively-charged residues (blue) on loop 4, which are involved in activity of gHwTx-IV and HwTx-IV, are shown. C, alignment of NaV1.1–NaV1.9 at the extracellular S3 and S4 loop of domain II is also shown. Red amino acids are the residues where the GMTs putatively bind (
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      ). Black shows equivalent positions on NaVs lacking the conserved anionic residues. D, sequences of HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV. Mutations that form gHwTx-IV are shown in green, and mutations forming [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV are shown in red. Peptides are aligned along cysteine residues (yellow highlighting).
      In the search for novel modulators of these channels, gating modifier toxins (GMTs) discovered in spider venom have proven to be useful pharmacological probes and drug leads for conditions mediated by NaV function due to their high specificity and selectivity for the therapeutically-relevant sodium channel subtype NaV1.7 (
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      ). Using protoxin-II (ProTx-II), a GMT with affinity for lipid membranes (
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      Interaction of tarantula venom peptide ProTx-II with lipid membranes is a prerequisite for its inhibition of human voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7.
      ), we recently showed that reducing the lipid binding of this particular GMT reduces its potency at NaV1.7 (
      • Henriques S.T.
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      Interaction of tarantula venom peptide ProTx-II with lipid membranes is a prerequisite for its inhibition of human voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7.
      ). However, huwentoxin-IV (HwTx-IV), a GMT found in the venom of the Chinese bird spider Haplopelma schmidti that acts selectively on tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium channels, is known to have weak affinity for lipid membranes (
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      ). We recently designed a HwTx-IV analogue, gHwTx-IV ([E1G,E4G,F6W,Y33W]HwTx-IV), displaying increased lipid affinity and an increase in potency at NaV1.7 (
      • Agwa A.J.
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      ). These studies contributed to the perspective that the lipids surrounding NaVs and other voltage-gated ion channels can attract, concentrate, and manipulate the binding of GMTs near their active sites at the channels for improved potency (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxin interactions with ion channels and lipid bilayers: is the trimolecular complex real?.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
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      • Koth C.M.
      • Payandeh J.
      Structural basis of NaV1.7 inhibition by a gating-modifier spider toxin.
      ).
      A largely-unanswered question is how increased GMT–lipid affinity affects selectivity for NaV1.7. GMT selectivity for NaV1.7 is a desirable feature because of the reported toxicity of some of these peptides in vivo, probably associated with off-target effects (
      • Flinspach M.
      • Xu Q.
      • Piekarz A.D.
      • Fellows R.
      • Hagan R.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Freedman J.
      • Eckert W.A.
      • Zhou M.
      • Bonesteel R.
      • Pennington M.W.
      • Eddinger K.A.
      • Yaksh T.L.
      • et al.
      Insensitivity to pain induced by a potent selective closed-state NaV1.7 inhibitor.
      ,
      • Gonçalves T.C.
      • Boukaiba R.
      • Molgó J.
      • Amar M.
      • Partiseti M.
      • Servent D.
      • Benoit E.
      Direct evidence for high affinity blockade of NaV1.6 channel subtype by huwentoxin-IV spider peptide, using multiscale functional approaches.
      ,
      • Schmalhofer W.A.
      • Calhoun J.
      • Burrows R.
      • Bailey T.
      • Kohler M.G.
      • Weinglass A.B.
      • Kaczorowski G.J.
      • Garcia M.L.
      • Koltzenburg M.
      • Priest B.T.
      ProTx-II, a selective inhibitor of NaV1.7 sodium channels, blocks action potential propagation in nociceptors.
      ). A difficulty with improving the selectivity of HwTx-IV, and similar GMTs, is that these peptides are attracted to a sequence of highly-conserved anionic amino acid residues (Glu-811, Asp-816, and Glu-818 (human NaV1.7 primary accession number Q15858)) located on the extracellular loop between S3 and S4 of domain II (Fig. 1C) (
      • Xiao Y.
      • Bingham J.P.
      • Zhu W.
      • Moczydlowski E.
      • Liang S.
      • Cummins T.R.
      Tarantula huwentoxin-IV inhibits neuronal sodium channels by binding to receptor site 4 and trapping the domain II voltage sensor in the closed configuration.
      ,
      • Xiao Y.
      • Jackson 2nd., J.O.
      • Liang S.
      • Cummins T.R.
      Common molecular determinants of tarantula huwentoxin-IV inhibition of Na+ channel voltage sensors in domains II and IV.
      ).
      Previous mutagenesis studies have deduced that the positively-charged amino acids on loop 4 of HwTx-IV are of particular importance for activity (Fig. 1B) (
      • Revell J.D.
      • Lund P.E.
      • Linley J.E.
      • Metcalfe J.
      • Burmeister N.
      • Sridharan S.
      • Jones C.
      • Jermutus L.
      • Bednarek M.A.
      Potency optimization of huwentoxin-IV on hNaV1.7: a neurotoxin TTX-S sodium-channel antagonist from the venom of the Chinese bird-eating spider Selenocosmia huwena.
      ,
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ,
      • Deng M.
      • Luo X.
      • Jiang L.
      • Chen H.
      • Wang J.
      • He H.
      • Liang S.
      Synthesis and biological characterization of synthetic analogs of Huwentoxin-IV (Mu-theraphotoxin-Hh2a), a neuronal tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium channel inhibitor.
      ). Deng et al. (
      • Deng M.
      • Luo X.
      • Jiang L.
      • Chen H.
      • Wang J.
      • He H.
      • Liang S.
      Synthesis and biological characterization of synthetic analogs of Huwentoxin-IV (Mu-theraphotoxin-Hh2a), a neuronal tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium channel inhibitor.
      ) noted that among other residues on loop 4, the R29A mutant lost ∼260-fold of activity at tetrodotoxin-sensitive NaVs, including NaV1.7 (examined on dorsal root ganglion cells) (
      • Deng M.
      • Luo X.
      • Jiang L.
      • Chen H.
      • Wang J.
      • He H.
      • Liang S.
      Synthesis and biological characterization of synthetic analogs of Huwentoxin-IV (Mu-theraphotoxin-Hh2a), a neuronal tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium channel inhibitor.
      ). The same study also hypothesized that Lys-27 played an important role in the bioactivity of HwTx-IV (
      • Deng M.
      • Luo X.
      • Jiang L.
      • Chen H.
      • Wang J.
      • He H.
      • Liang S.
      Synthesis and biological characterization of synthetic analogs of Huwentoxin-IV (Mu-theraphotoxin-Hh2a), a neuronal tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium channel inhibitor.
      ). Additional studies by Minassian et al. (
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ) showed that R26A and K27A mutations of HwTx-IV resulted in some loss of potency at NaV1.7, accompanied by larger reductions in potency at NaV1.2. The R29A mutation resulted in no change in potency at NaV1.7, but a considerable reduction in potency at NaV1.2 (these studies were conducted on NaVs expressed in HEK293 cells) (
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ). The main difference between NaV1.7 and NaV1.2 at the putative HwTx-IV–binding site on S3 and S4 of DII is that NaV1.2 only has two anionic residues compared with three on NaV1.7 in the putative GMT-binding site (NaV1.2 contains Asn-816 in place of Asp-816) (Fig. 1C). Therefore, the reduction in potency for the Arg-29 analogue could be due to weakened electrostatic interactions between HwTx-IV and NaV1.2 (
      • Xiao Y.
      • Bingham J.P.
      • Zhu W.
      • Moczydlowski E.
      • Liang S.
      • Cummins T.R.
      Tarantula huwentoxin-IV inhibits neuronal sodium channels by binding to receptor site 4 and trapping the domain II voltage sensor in the closed configuration.
      ). Recent studies by Tzakoniati et al. (
      • Tzakoniati F.
      • Xu H.
      • Li T.
      • Garcia N.
      • Kugel C.
      • Payandeh J.
      • Koth C.M.
      • Tate E.W.
      Development of photocross-linking probes based on Huwentoxin-IV to map the site of interaction on NaV1.7.
      ) and Neff et al. (
      • Neff R.A.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Liu Y.
      • Fellows R.
      • Libiger O.
      • Young S.
      • Pennington M.W.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Comprehensive engineering of the tarantula venom peptide huwentoxin-IV to inhibit the human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ) propose that interactions between anionic residues on both the S1 and S2 loop and S3 and S4 loop and cationic residues Arg-26, Arg-29, and Lys-27 are important in HwTx-IV binding (
      • Tzakoniati F.
      • Xu H.
      • Li T.
      • Garcia N.
      • Kugel C.
      • Payandeh J.
      • Koth C.M.
      • Tate E.W.
      Development of photocross-linking probes based on Huwentoxin-IV to map the site of interaction on NaV1.7.
      ,
      • Neff R.A.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Liu Y.
      • Fellows R.
      • Libiger O.
      • Young S.
      • Pennington M.W.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Comprehensive engineering of the tarantula venom peptide huwentoxin-IV to inhibit the human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ), although there is some disagreement on the specific interactions across existing models (
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ,
      • Tzakoniati F.
      • Xu H.
      • Li T.
      • Garcia N.
      • Kugel C.
      • Payandeh J.
      • Koth C.M.
      • Tate E.W.
      Development of photocross-linking probes based on Huwentoxin-IV to map the site of interaction on NaV1.7.
      ,
      • Neff R.A.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Liu Y.
      • Fellows R.
      • Libiger O.
      • Young S.
      • Pennington M.W.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Comprehensive engineering of the tarantula venom peptide huwentoxin-IV to inhibit the human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ). Based on these observations, we hypothesized that manipulation of the basic residues on loop 4 of HwTx-IV may aid in improving selectivity by modulating salt-bridge interactions between basic amino acids on loop 4 of the GMT and anionic amino acids in the conserved S3 and S4 extracellular loop of DII on off-target NaVs.
      We used gHwTx-IV (
      • Revell J.D.
      • Lund P.E.
      • Linley J.E.
      • Metcalfe J.
      • Burmeister N.
      • Sridharan S.
      • Jones C.
      • Jermutus L.
      • Bednarek M.A.
      Potency optimization of huwentoxin-IV on hNaV1.7: a neurotoxin TTX-S sodium-channel antagonist from the venom of the Chinese bird-eating spider Selenocosmia huwena.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ) as a starting molecule to capitalize on the increased potency of this molecule at NaV1.7, which is accompanied by stronger affinity for the lipid bilayer compared with HwTx-IV. We previously postulated that the lipid bilayer can attract and concentrate gHwTx-IV near its binding site at NaV1.7 to increase its apparent potency (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ). Even though Arg-26, Lys-27, and Arg-29 mutations on HwTx-IV did not always display favorable potency at NaV1.7 (
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ,
      • Deng M.
      • Luo X.
      • Jiang L.
      • Chen H.
      • Wang J.
      • He H.
      • Liang S.
      Synthesis and biological characterization of synthetic analogs of Huwentoxin-IV (Mu-theraphotoxin-Hh2a), a neuronal tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium channel inhibitor.
      ), we were interested in examining whether point mutations to Arg-26, Lys-27, and Arg-29 of gHwTx-IV would improve selectivity while maintaining potency at NaV1.7 through interactions with the lipid bilayer. To this end, we synthetically produced HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV (Fig. 1D). We ensured correct folding of the analogues using NMR, examined lipid binding of the peptides using surface plasmon resonance (SPR), and the activity of all peptides on human NaV1.7 was assessed using automated patch-clamp electrophysiology. In addition, we were specifically interested in examining selectivity for NaV1.7 over off-target NaVs that possess high-sequence homology to NaV1.7 at the putative binding site for HwTx-IV; therefore, peptides were tested on human NaV1.1, NaV1.2, NaV1.3, NaV1.4, NaV1.5, and NaV1.6 for off-target activity (Fig. 1C). To examine the ability of HwTx-IV and the analogues to inhibit activity of the channels, the most potent analogue at NaV1.7 was determined using automated patch-clamp electrophysiology, and its potency at NaV1.1–1.7 was subsequently determined. The NaV1.1–1.7 selectivity profiles for HwTx-IV and all analogues were determined using a membrane potential assay on FLIPRTETRA (
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Wingerd J.S.
      • Winter Z.
      • Durek T.
      • Dekan Z.
      • Sousa S.R.
      • Zimmermann K.
      • Hoffmann T.
      • Weidner C.
      • Nassar M.A.
      • Alewood P.F.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Vetter I.
      Analgesic effects of GpTx-1, PF-04856264, and CNV1014802 in a mouse model of NaV1.7-mediated pain.
      ). Taken together, this body of work demonstrates that for gHwTx-IV, mutations to amino acids involved in activity can improve selectivity for NaV1.7 and that the same modifications decrease affinity for lipid bilayers. The most potent analogue, [R26A]gHwTx-IV, was further tested for on-target activity in vivo using a mouse model of NaV1.7-mediated nociception, and it showed improved efficacy compared with gHwTx-IV and similar efficacy to HwTx-IV.

      Results

       Oxidation and structural analysis of the peptides

      To attain correctly folded peptides, oxidation of HwTx-IV was conducted over 16 h to obtain the oxidized peptide with the most thermodynamically favorable fold and a yield of 80% as described previously (Fig. S1) (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Xiao Y.
      • Bingham J.P.
      • Zhu W.
      • Moczydlowski E.
      • Liang S.
      • Cummins T.R.
      Tarantula huwentoxin-IV inhibits neuronal sodium channels by binding to receptor site 4 and trapping the domain II voltage sensor in the closed configuration.
      ). Thermodynamic oxidation also facilitated the folding of gHwTx-IV, [R26A]gHwTx-IV, and [K27A]gHwTx-IV with yields between 10 and 15% over 48 h (Fig. S1) (
      • Revell J.D.
      • Lund P.E.
      • Linley J.E.
      • Metcalfe J.
      • Burmeister N.
      • Sridharan S.
      • Jones C.
      • Jermutus L.
      • Bednarek M.A.
      Potency optimization of huwentoxin-IV on hNaV1.7: a neurotoxin TTX-S sodium-channel antagonist from the venom of the Chinese bird-eating spider Selenocosmia huwena.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ). However, repeated misfolding of [R29A]gHwTx-IV using thermodynamic approaches prompted the use of orthogonal oxidation (Fig. 2 and Figs. S1 and S2).
      Figure thumbnail gr2
      Figure 2Orthogonal folding of [R29A]gHwTx-IV. Free cysteines Cys III and Cys VI were oxidized slowly in DMSO, followed by a fast removal of Acm protecting groups with subsequent oxidation of Cys II and Cys V using I2. After HF cleavage of 4-MeBzl, Cys I and Cys IV were oxidized slowly in DMSO to give the final product with correct disulfide connectivity. MALDI-TOF was used to ascertain that the correct product was formed at each step, and RP-HPLC analytical traces show a leftward shift in retention time after each oxidation step.
      [R29A]gHwTx-IV was synthesized with S-trityl (Trt) protecting groups on Cys III and Cys VI, acetamidomethyl (Acm) protecting groups on Cys II and Cys V, and 4-methylbenzyl (4-MeBzl) protecting groups on Cys I and Cys IV. A slow–fast–slow kinetic approach was used to oxidize one disulfide bridge at a time (Fig. 2). DMSO was chosen for the slow oxidation steps (step 1, Cys III–Cys VI (85% yield), and step 3, Cys I–Cys IV (after cleavage of 4-MeBzl using hydrogen fluoride (20% yield)) because it offered a low-risk approach with no observed side reactions. I2 was used for the removal of Acm protecting groups from Cys II and Cys V (step 2) and the subsequent oxidation of the pair. We found that a 10-min reaction using 20 molar eq of I2 in 15% (v/v) methanol (MeOH), 42.5% (v/v) acetic acid (AcOH), and 42.5% (v/v) H2O was optimal to maximize the oxidized product (30% yield) and to minimize side reactions between I2 and the indole groups on the Trp residues in the peptide.
      One-dimensional (1D) 1H NMR analysis of the peptides confirmed that they were folded (Fig. S1). Secondary chemical shift analysis obtained from the sequential assignment of two-dimensional (2D) TOCSY and NOESY spectra showed that the overall structure of the peptides was maintained (Fig. 3). Expected local differences in the backbones of the peptides are observed between gHwTx-IV and HwTx-IV at the E1G, E4G, F6W, and Y33W mutations as before (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ), and between gHwTx-IV and the three analogues at R26A, K27A, and R29A (Fig. 3).
      Figure thumbnail gr3
      Figure 3Secondary Hα shifts of HwTx-IV and the analogues. The secondary Hα shifts of gHwTx-IV overlap well with those of HwTx-IV except near or at the positions where mutations were made (Gly-1, Gly-4, Trp-6, and Trp-33). [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV similarly show good alignment with gHwTx-IV except in the region where the mutations were made. Sequence alignment of the peptides is shown with cysteines highlighted in yellow, gHwTx-IV mutants in green, and mutations forming [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV in red.

       Affinity of GMTs for lipid bilayers

      SPR was used to examine the affinity of the GMTs for lipid bilayers by measuring the amount of peptide bound to lipid (peptide/lipid (P/L mol/mol)) using zwitterionic 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) and anionic POPC/POPS (4:1 molar ratio) model membranes. The rationale behind the choice of lipids for these studies has previously been discussed (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxin interactions with ion channels and lipid bilayers: is the trimolecular complex real?.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chaousis S.
      • Inserra M.
      • Thongyoo P.
      • King G.F.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Vetter I.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Interaction of tarantula venom peptide ProTx-II with lipid membranes is a prerequisite for its inhibition of human voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7.
      ,
      • Deplazes E.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Smith J.J.
      • King G.F.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Membrane-binding properties of gating modifier and pore-blocking toxins: membrane interaction is not a prerequisite for modification of channel gating.
      ). Briefly, phospholipids containing phosphatidylcholine headgroups are abundant on the outer leaflet of mammalian cells, and phospholipids containing phosphatidylserine headgroups mimic the anionic environment surrounding membrane-embedded voltage-gated sodium channels (
      • van Meer G.
      • de Kroon A.I.
      Lipid map of the mammalian cell.
      ).
      As before (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ), HwTx-IV had weak affinity for model lipid bilayers (all values are maximum P/L mol/mol ± S.E.) (POPC = 0.01 ± 0.01; POPC/POPS = negligible) compared with gHwTx-IV (POPC = 0.07 ± 0.02; POPC/POPS = 0.16 ± 0.03) (Fig. 4). [R26A]gHwTx-IV (POPC = 0.024 ± 0.003; POPC/POPS = 0.06 ± 0.01), [K27A]gHwTx-IV (POPC = 0.06 ± 0.01; POPC/POPS = 0.12 ± 0.01), and [R29A]gHwTx-IV (POPC = 0.05 ± 0.01; POPC/POPS = 0.06 ± 0.01) had intermediate affinities for the lipid bilayers compared with gHwTx-IV and HwTx-IV. We previously described the membrane-binding face of gHwTx-IV to include Gly-1, Gly-4, Trp-6, and Trp-33 among other residues on the hydrophobic patch (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ). The results herein suggest that the positively-charged amino acid residues on loop 4 of the GMT also contribute to affinity for lipid bilayers and that substitution of these residues for alanine residues on gHwTx-IV reduces their affinity for lipid bilayers.
      Figure thumbnail gr4
      Figure 4Affinity of peptides for model lipid bilayers. SPR was used to examine the affinity of the peptides for model membranes consisting of POPC or POPC/POPS (4:1 molar ratio) lipid bilayers. The amount of peptide bound to lipid (peptide/lipid mol/mol) is shown and reveals that [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV had weaker affinity than gHwTx-IV for the model lipid membranes; however, all the analogues had stronger affinity than HwTx-IV for both lipid bilayers. All peptides had stronger affinity for anionic POPC/POPS than zwitterionic POPC lipid bilayers.

       Potency and selectivity of the GMTs

      Potency at human NaV1.7 was improved by each of the mutations compared with HwTx-IV, as determined by automated patch-clamp electrophysiology (Fig. 5A and Fig. S3A). As before (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ), gHwTx-IV was ∼4-fold more potent than HwTx-IV (HwTx-IV IC50 = 35.7 ± 5.2 nm; gHwTx-IV IC50 = 8.1 ± 0.3 nm). Potencies of [K27A]gHwTx-IV and [R29A]gHwTx-IV were comparable with gHwTx-IV ([K27A]gHwTx-IV IC50 = 8.5 ± 2.0 nm; [R29A]gHwTx-IV IC50 = 7.7 ± 2.6 nm). Interestingly, [R26A]gHwTx-IV was nearly five times more potent than gHwTx-IV and 21-fold more potent than HwTx-IV at NaV1.7 ([R26A]gHwTx-IV IC50 = 1.7 ± 0.5 nm) (Fig. 5A and Table 1).
      Figure thumbnail gr5
      Figure 5Automated patch-clamp electrophysiology of HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and analogues at human NaV channels expressed in HEK293 cells. A, potency of the peptides was evaluated at NaV1.7. [R26A]gHwTx-IV showed improved potency, whereas [K27A]gHwTx-IV and [R29A]gHwTx-IV maintained potency at NaV1.7 compared with gHwTx-IV. All analogues showed improved potency over HwTx-IV. B, selectivity screening of [R26A]gHwTx-IV at NaV1.1–1.7. NaV1.4 and NaV1.5 are omitted because no activity was detected up to 300 nm. C, Time course of the decrease in current as the HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and [R26A]gHwTx-IV binding to NaV1.7 was measured at each peptide's individual IC90 value (100, 20, and 10 nm, respectively). τ values were calculated for each peptide by fitting to a one-phase decay. A subsequent stepwise wash-off was conducted for 30 min, and the percentage of inhibition remaining at the end of the wash-off protocol is shown in a bar graph. D, time course of the binding of the peptides was conducted as in C, but all peptides were measured at 100 nm. All values expressed as mean ± S.E. (n ≥ 3). E, representative NaV1.7 current trace of a single cell before and after addition of 10 and 100 nm HwTx-IV.
      Table 1Potency of HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and analogues on NaV1.7
      PeptideIC50 ± S.E.
      nm
      HwTx-IV35.7 ± 5.2
      gHwTx-IV8.1 ± 0.3
      [R26A]gHwTx-IV1.7 ± 0.5
      [K27A]gHwTx-IV8.5 ± 2.0
      [R29A]gHwTx-IV7.7 ± 2.6
      Selectivity of [R26A]gHwTx-IV for human NaV1.7 over human NaV1.1–1.6 was then determined by automated patch-clamp electrophysiology (Fig. 5B and Fig. S3B). Although NaV1.8 and NaV1.9 are both validated pain targets (
      • de Lera Ruiz M.
      • Kraus R.L.
      Voltage-gated sodium channels: structure, function, pharmacology, and clinical indications.
      ,
      • Okuse K.
      • Chaplan S.R.
      • McMahon S.B.
      • Luo Z.D.
      • Calcutt N.A.
      • Scott B.P.
      • Akopian A.N.
      • Wood J.N.
      Regulation of expression of the sensory neuron-specific sodium channel SNS in inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
      ,
      • Amaya F.
      • Wang H.
      • Costigan M.
      • Allchorne A.J.
      • Hatcher J.P.
      • Egerton J.
      • Stean T.
      • Morisset V.
      • Grose D.
      • Gunthorpe M.J.
      • Chessell I.P.
      • Tate S.
      • Green P.J.
      • Woolf C.J.
      The voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.9 is an effector of peripheral inflammatory pain hypersensitivity.
      ,
      • Dib-Hajj S.D.
      • Black J.A.
      • Waxman S.G.
      NaV1.9: a sodium channel linked to human pain.
      ), these subtypes were not included in this study as they have low sequence homology across the proposed binding site compared with NaV1.7 (
      • Vetter I.
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Mueller A.
      • Israel M.R.
      • Starobova H.
      • Zhang A.
      • Rash L.D.
      • Mobli M.
      NaV1.7 as a pain target–from gene to pharmacology.
      ). Furthermore, NaV1.9 is notoriously challenging to express and is only available in a handful of laboratories in the world (
      • Krafte D.S.
      • Bannon A.W.
      Sodium channels and nociception: recent concepts and therapeutic opportunities.
      ,
      • Lin Z.
      • Santos S.
      • Padilla K.
      • Printzenhoff D.
      • Castle N.A.
      Biophysical and pharmacological characterization of NaV1.9 voltage dependent sodium channels stably expressed in HEK-293 cells.
      ). [R26A]gHwTx-IV showed 11- and 13-fold selectivity for NaV1.7 compared with NaV1.6 and NaV1.1, respectively. Selectivity was 27-fold greater at NaV1.2 and 64-fold greater at NaV1.3. The peptide showed no activity at NaV1.4 or NaV1.5 up to 300 nm; therefore, selectivity at both subtypes is at least 176-fold (Fig. 5B and Table 2). This results in an [R26A]gHwTx-IV selectivity profile of NaV1.7 > NaV1.6 > NaV1.1 > NaV1.2 > NaV1.3 ≫ NaV1.4 and NaV1.5.
      Table 2Potency and selectivity of [R26A]gHwTx-IV on NaV1.1–1.7
      SubtypeIC50 ± S.E.Selectivity
      nm
      NaV1.122.4 ± 1.213.2
      NaV1.245.6 ± 12.126.8
      NaV1.3109.3 ± 48.264.3
      NaV1.4>300>176
      NaV1.5>300>176
      NaV1.618.7 ± 4.311.0
      NaV1.71.7 ± 0.5
      Time constants of block (τ) were determined using automated patch-clamp electrophysiology for HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and the most potent analogue at NaV1.7, [R26A]gHwTx-IV (Fig. 5C). Peptides at their respective IC90 concentrations (HwTx-IV, 100 nm; gHwTx-IV, 20 nm; [R26A]gHwTx-IV, 10 nm) were added to cells to achieve near-complete block, and the decrease in current was measured over a period of 20 min, during which all peptides reached a steady state. It is necessary to test each peptide at its IC90 because τ values are concentration-dependent. HwTx-IV inhibited the current with the shortest time constant of block (τ = 0.753 s), followed by gHwTx-IV (τ = 2.67 s) and then [R26A]gHwTx-IV (τ = 3.20 s) (Fig. 5C). This suggests that the mutations to HwTx-IV forming gHwTx-IV and [R26A]gHwTx-IV have some effect on the rate of binding to the channel. Time constants of block were also measured for the same three peptides at 100 nm to compare them at the same concentration (Fig. 5D), which showed similar τ values for all peptides (HwTx-IV, τ = 0.753 s; gHwTx-IV, τ = 1.48 s; and [R26A]gHwTx-IV, τ = 1.30 s).
      A stepwise wash-off was performed with HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and [R26A]gHwTx-IV at their respective IC90 values (Fig. 5C). After continuous wash-off for 30 min, gHwTx-IV showed the highest percentage of sustained inhibition (68.1% ± 7.6%). This is similar to the remaining inhibition of HwTx-IV (52.1% ± 13.3%), but [R26A]gHwTx-IV had a significantly lower percentage of remaining inhibition (28.7% ± 8.8%). This suggests that the mutations that make up gHwTx-IV do not affect the peptide's dissociation from the channel compared with HwTx-IV, whereas the R26A mutation has a significant effect on peptide dissociation.
      IC50 values of the same three peptides were measured with holding potentials of both −90 mV and −55 mV to determine whether binding is state- or voltage-dependent, showing no significant difference (Fig. S4). This suggests that although there is strong evidence that HwTx-IV binds preferentially to the closed conformation of voltage-sensor DII, the modified toxins could experience some alterations in binding to the activated voltage-sensor, and unlike for some other GMTs (
      • Li H.
      • Xu J.
      • Shen Z.S.
      • Wang G.M.
      • Tang M.
      • Du X.R.
      • Lv Y.T.
      • Wang J.J.
      • Zhang F.F.
      • Qi Z.
      • Zhang Z.
      • Sokabe M.
      • Tang Q.Y.
      The neuropeptide GsMTx4 inhibits a mechanosensitive BK channel through the voltage-dependent modification specific to mechano-gating.
      ,
      • Liu Z.
      • Cai T.
      • Zhu Q.
      • Deng M.
      • Li J.
      • Zhou X.
      • Zhang F.
      • Li D.
      • Li J.
      • Liu Y.
      • Hu W.
      • Liang S.
      Structure and function of hainantoxin-III, a selective antagonist of neuronal tetrodotoxin-sensitive voltage-gated sodium channels isolated from the Chinese bird spider Ornithoctonus hainana.
      ), the activity of the peptides tested in this study appear not to be influenced by channel state or membrane potential.
      A complete selectivity screen was performed for each peptide using the FLIPRTETRA membrane potential assay (Table 3, Fig. 6). The addition of veratridine is known to underestimate the potency of GMTs compared with electrophysiology measurements, as reported previously (
      • Rahnama S.
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Cardoso F.C.
      • Ramanujam V.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Rash L.D.
      • King G.F.
      • Vetter I.
      • Mobli M.
      The structure, dynamics and selectivity profile of a NaV1.7 potency-optimised huwentoxin-IV variant.
      ). Although this assay gives a median 15-fold underestimation of the potencies of GMTs compared with patch-clamp electrophysiology assays (as observed in this study) (Figs. S5 and S6 and Table S1), it is a lower-cost, high-throughput assay that can reliably be used to measure relative potencies and therefore selectivity. Overall, the observed trend of selectivity for NaV1.7 using both assays is in good agreement.
      Table 3Fold selectivity of HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and analogues determined by membrane potential assay
      PeptideNaV1.1NaV1.2NaV1.3NaV1.4NaV1.5NaV1.6NaV1.7
      HwTx-IV0.651.06>41.2>41.2>41.223.6
      gHwTx-IV2.731.4782.8324>1368.64
      [R26A]gHwTx-IV9.3840.891.7>392>39256.3
      [K27A]gHwTx-IV8.9812.211.2236>5022.3
      [R29A]gHwTx-IV54.113.4273309>18754.8
      Figure thumbnail gr6
      Figure 6In vitro potencies and selectivity of HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and analogues. pIC50 values of all peptides at NaV1.1–1.7 expressed in HEK293 cells were determined by FLIPRTETRA membrane potential assay. Fold selectivity compared with NaV1.7 is shown. A pIC50 value of 0 was assigned to subtypes at which peptides showed no inhibitory activity up to 10 μm. Data are expressed as mean ± S.D. (n ≥ 3).
      From the membrane potential assay, selectivity of [R26A]gHwTx-IV and [K27A]gHwTx-IV was 9-fold (comparable with 13-fold for [R26A]gHwTx-IV, as determined by patch-clamp electrophysiology), and [R29A]gHwTx-IV was 54-fold more selective for NaV1.7 than NaV1.1 (Table 2, Table 3). This was an improvement compared with the selectivity of gHwTx-IV (3-fold) and HwTx-IV (less than 1-fold) (Table 3). Similarly, [K27A]gHwTx-IV and [R29A]gHwTx-IV showed a 12- and 13-fold selectivity for NaV1.7 over NaV1.2 respectively (Table 3). The selectivity of [R26A]gHwTx-IV was the most improved at 41-fold (overestimated compared with 27-fold, as determined by patch-clamp electrophysiology) (Table 2, Table 3). gHwTx-IV had 1.5-fold selectivity for NaV1.7 over NaV1.2, and HwTx-IV showed almost equivalent potency for both NaV1.7 and NaV1.2 (Table 3). [R26A]gHwTx-IV and [R29A]gHwTx-IV had a 92-fold (overestimated compared with 64-fold from patch-clamp electrophysiology) and 273-fold selectivity (respectively) for NaV1.7 compared with NaV1.3 (Table 2, Table 3). In this case, the selectivity of [K27A]gHwTx-IV was 11-fold, which was less than the selectivity of gHwTx-IV (83-fold). HwTx-IV did not show inhibitory activity at NaV1.3 up to 10 μm in our hands, making it at least 41-fold more selective for NaV1.7 over NaV1.3 (Table 3), although an IC50 value of 338 nm was previously reported at rat NaV1.3 (
      • Xiao Y.
      • Bingham J.P.
      • Zhu W.
      • Moczydlowski E.
      • Liang S.
      • Cummins T.R.
      Tarantula huwentoxin-IV inhibits neuronal sodium channels by binding to receptor site 4 and trapping the domain II voltage sensor in the closed configuration.
      ). In comparison with NaV1.7 to NaV1.4, [R26A]gHwTx-IV showed the greatest improvement in selectivity for NaV1.7, showing no inhibitory activity on NaV1.4 up to 10 μm, thus being at least 392-fold more selective (or at least 176-fold, from patch-clamp electrophysiology) (Table 2, Table 3). [R29A]gHwTx-IV was 309-fold more selective and [K27A]gHwTx-IV was 236-fold more selective for NaV1.7 than NaV1.4 (Table 3). By comparison, gHwTx-IV was 324-fold more selective and HwTx-IV was 41-fold more selective for NaV1.7 than for NaV1.4 (Table 3).
      None of the peptides showed activity at NaV1.5; therefore, if IC50 values were set at an arbitrary value of 10 μm (Fig. 6), the selectivity of the peptides relative to NaV1.7 in ascending order is HwTx-IV (41-fold), [K27A]gHwTx-IV (50-fold), gHwTx-IV (136-fold), [R29A]gHwTx-IV (187-fold), and [R26A]gHwTx-IV (392-fold) (Table 3). Compared with NaV1.6, [R26A]gHwTx-IV and [R29A]gHwTx-IV were 56-fold (overestimated compared with 11-fold, determined by patch-clamp electrophysiology) and 55-fold more selective for NaV1.7, and [K27A]gHwTx-IV was 22-fold more selective for NaV1.7 over NaV1.6. gHwTx-IV and HwTx-IV had 9- and 24-fold selectivity, respectively, for NaV1.7 (Table 3).
      These results show that a combination of mutations to HwTx-IV, including gHwTx-IV (E1G, E4G, F6W, and Y33W), and point mutations at the positively-charged residues in loop 4 lead to modified potency and selectivity of this GMT at NaV1.7.
      Taking these results together with the GMT–lipid affinity studies, removal of positively-charged residues that contribute to the activity of gHwTx-IV reduces, but does not eliminate, affinity for the lipid bilayer. These mutations also improve the overall selectivity for NaV1.7 with respect to off-target NaVs containing a string of anionic residues at HwTx-IV's putative binding site (Fig. 1, C and D).

       Activity of HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and [R26A]gHwTx-IV in murine model of NaV1.7-mediated nociception

      We were interested in examining whether the most selective peptide was efficacious in vivo; therefore, the effects of HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and [R26A]gHwTx-IV were examined in a mouse model of NaV1.7-mediated nociception after intraplantar administration of OD1 (300 nm), an α-scorpion toxin that selectively impairs inactivation and enhances current from NaV1.7 (Fig. 7) (
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Wingerd J.S.
      • Winter Z.
      • Durek T.
      • Dekan Z.
      • Sousa S.R.
      • Zimmermann K.
      • Hoffmann T.
      • Weidner C.
      • Nassar M.A.
      • Alewood P.F.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Vetter I.
      Analgesic effects of GpTx-1, PF-04856264, and CNV1014802 in a mouse model of NaV1.7-mediated pain.
      ,
      • Durek T.
      • Vetter I.
      • Wang C.I.
      • Motin L.
      • Knapp O.
      • Adams D.J.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Alewood P.F.
      Chemical engineering and structural and pharmacological characterization of the αscorpion toxin OD1.
      ). There is 100% homology between human and mouse NaV1.7 across the S3 and S4 helix sequence in DII, which includes the S3 and S4 extracellular loop previously described as the GMT-binding site, suggesting that a mouse model provides a suitable comparison for human NaV1.7 (UniProt ID Q15858 hNaV1.7 and Q62205 mNaV1.7) (Fig. S7). HwTx-IV significantly reduced nocifensive behaviors (cumulative nocifensive behavior count 132.0 ± 44.3, p < 0.01) compared with the control (OD1; 518.3 ± 59.1). There was a significant reduction in nocifensive behaviors for [R26A]gHwTx-IV (182.7 ± 10.0, p < 0.01), comparable with that of HwTx-IV, at the same dose (Fig. 7). There was a small but significant difference in nocifensive behavior for gHwTx-IV (308.0 ± 28.2, p < 0.05), although this peptide showed a delayed inhibitory effect during the first 10 min post-injection, with a nocifensive behavior count comparable with the control (Fig. 7). After this delay period, nocifensive behaviors were reduced to a similar level to HwTx-IV and [R26A]gHwTx-IV for the remaining 20 min of the experiment.
      Figure thumbnail gr7
      Figure 7Effect of intraplantar injection of 100 nm HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and [R26A]gHwTx-IV in a murine model of NaV1.7-mediated nociception. A, time course of OD1-induced nocifensive behaviors over 30 min. B, pooled OD1-induced nocifensive behaviors; HwTx-IV and [R26A]gHwTx-IV each significantly reduced OD1-induced nociception (**, unpaired t test, p < 0.01). There was a significant difference in effect for gHwTx-IV, although to a lesser extent (*, unpaired t test, p < 0.05). All values expressed as mean ± S.D. (n = 3–5 animals).

      Discussion

      NaV1.7 is a promising target for the development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of pain (
      • Vetter I.
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Mueller A.
      • Israel M.R.
      • Starobova H.
      • Zhang A.
      • Rash L.D.
      • Mobli M.
      NaV1.7 as a pain target–from gene to pharmacology.
      ,
      • Dib-Hajj S.D.
      • Cummins T.R.
      • Black J.A.
      • Waxman S.G.
      From genes to pain: NaV1.7 and human pain disorders.
      ,
      • Dib-Hajj S.D.
      • Yang Y.
      • Black J.A.
      • Waxman S.G.
      The NaV1.7 sodium channel: from molecule to man.
      ). Spider GMTs, which are potent NaV modulators, are being pursued as peptide drug leads for NaV1.7 (
      • Mueller A.
      • Starobova H.
      • Morgan M.
      • Dekan Z.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Alewood P.F.
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Vetter I.
      Antiallodynic effects of the selective NaV1.7 inhibitor Pn3a in a mouse model of acute postsurgical pain: evidence for analgesic synergy with opioids and baclofen.
      ). Because of the proposed affinity of some GMTs for lipid bilayers surrounding NaVs (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxin interactions with ion channels and lipid bilayers: is the trimolecular complex real?.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chaousis S.
      • Inserra M.
      • Thongyoo P.
      • King G.F.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Vetter I.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Interaction of tarantula venom peptide ProTx-II with lipid membranes is a prerequisite for its inhibition of human voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7.
      ,
      • Deplazes E.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Smith J.J.
      • King G.F.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Membrane-binding properties of gating modifier and pore-blocking toxins: membrane interaction is not a prerequisite for modification of channel gating.
      ,
      • Mueller A.
      • Dekan Z.
      • Kaas Q.
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Starobova H.
      • Alewood P.F.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Mobli M.
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Vetter I.
      Mapping the molecular surface of the analgesic NaV1.7-selective peptide Pn3a reveals residues essential for membrane and channel interactions.
      ), here we have used gHwTx-IV to examine how mutations to specific GMT residues known to interact with the channels (
      • Xiao Y.
      • Luo X.
      • Kuang F.
      • Deng M.
      • Wang M.
      • Zeng X.
      • Liang S.
      Synthesis and characterization of huwentoxin-IV, a neurotoxin inhibiting central neuronal sodium channels.
      ,
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ) can also influence affinity for lipid bilayers and selectivity for NaV1.7.
      Point mutations to the positively-charged residues on loop 4 of gHwTx-IV reduce but do not eliminate affinity for model lipid bilayers (Fig. 4). This places [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV in between gHwTx-IV and HwTx-IV with respect to affinity for neutral POPC and anionic POPC/POPS lipid bilayers. When affinity of HwTx-IV for model lipid membranes was first examined, this GMT showed no binding to lipid bilayers (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Xiao Y.
      • Luo X.
      • Kuang F.
      • Deng M.
      • Wang M.
      • Zeng X.
      • Liang S.
      Synthesis and characterization of huwentoxin-IV, a neurotoxin inhibiting central neuronal sodium channels.
      ). We then engineered gHwTx-IV to increase affinity for model lipid membranes by reducing the anionic contribution to the overall surface charge of the peptide and by increasing the size of the hydrophobic patch (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ). At the time, we proposed that the peptide may bind to the lipid bilayer using a membrane interaction face (Fig. 8A), consisting primarily of hydrophobic residues in a manner similar to ProTx-I and ProTx-II (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chaousis S.
      • Inserra M.
      • Thongyoo P.
      • King G.F.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Vetter I.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Interaction of tarantula venom peptide ProTx-II with lipid membranes is a prerequisite for its inhibition of human voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7.
      ,
      • Deplazes E.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Smith J.J.
      • King G.F.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Membrane-binding properties of gating modifier and pore-blocking toxins: membrane interaction is not a prerequisite for modification of channel gating.
      ). The observed change in affinity for lipid bilayers of the three new analogues compared with gHwTx-IV suggests that Arg-26, Lys-27, and Arg-29 also contribute to the membrane-binding face residues important for affinity for the lipid bilayers, most probably through electrostatic interactions with anionic moieties on the lipid bilayer (Fig. 8A). In a study conducted by Henriques et al. (
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chaousis S.
      • Inserra M.
      • Thongyoo P.
      • King G.F.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Vetter I.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Interaction of tarantula venom peptide ProTx-II with lipid membranes is a prerequisite for its inhibition of human voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7.
      ), [E17K]ProTx-II showed increased affinity for POPC/POPS bilayers compared with the WT toxin. They propose that the introduction of a cationic residue increases the toxin's affinity for the anionic phospholipid headgroups (
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chaousis S.
      • Inserra M.
      • Thongyoo P.
      • King G.F.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Vetter I.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Interaction of tarantula venom peptide ProTx-II with lipid membranes is a prerequisite for its inhibition of human voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7.
      ), which is in agreement with the results of this study. The opposite effect was observed by Nishizawa et al. (
      • Nishizawa K.
      • Nishizawa M.
      • Gnanasambandam R.
      • Sachs F.
      • Sukharev S.I.
      • Suchyna T.M.
      Effects of Lys to Glu mutations in GsMTx4 on membrane binding, peptide orientation, and self-association propensity, as analyzed by molecular dynamics simulations.
      ), who found that a mutant of GsMTx4 with increased negative charge, [K15E]GsMTx4, showed an increase in POPC/1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-(1′-rac-glycerol) affinity.
      Figure thumbnail gr8
      Figure 8Putative membrane binding and channel interaction of gHwTx-IV. A, surface profile of gHwTx-IV (PDB code 5TLR) with hydrophobic patch (green) and positively-charged ring (blue). The previously proposed membrane-binding face (left) (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ) and an updated membrane-binding face (right) are proposed with residues that probably contribute to interactions with lipid bilayers shown. B, we propose that with a membrane-binding face that includes some of the residues involved in activity, gHwTx-IV probably interacts with the phospholipid heads found between extracellular loops formed by S1 and S2 and by S3 and S4. Figure is adapted from Agwa et al. (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ).
      [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV displayed improved activity at NaV1.7 compared with activity of HwTx-IV at the same channel (Fig. 5). As before, gHwTx-IV was 4-fold more potent than HwTx-IV (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ). [R29A]gHwTx-IV and [K27A]gHwTx-IV displayed similar potency compared with gHwTx-IV, and [R26A]gHwTx-IV was 21-fold more potent than HwTx-IV at NaV1.7 (Fig. 5 and Table 1). As mentioned, the basic residues on loop 4 of HwTx-IV have been proposed to form important interactions with anionic amino acids on the S3 and S4 loop of domain II on NaVs (
      • Xiao Y.
      • Bingham J.P.
      • Zhu W.
      • Moczydlowski E.
      • Liang S.
      • Cummins T.R.
      Tarantula huwentoxin-IV inhibits neuronal sodium channels by binding to receptor site 4 and trapping the domain II voltage sensor in the closed configuration.
      ,
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ), as well as the anionic amino acids on the S1 and S2 loop (
      • Tzakoniati F.
      • Xu H.
      • Li T.
      • Garcia N.
      • Kugel C.
      • Payandeh J.
      • Koth C.M.
      • Tate E.W.
      Development of photocross-linking probes based on Huwentoxin-IV to map the site of interaction on NaV1.7.
      ,
      • Neff R.A.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Liu Y.
      • Fellows R.
      • Libiger O.
      • Young S.
      • Pennington M.W.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Comprehensive engineering of the tarantula venom peptide huwentoxin-IV to inhibit the human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ). In the mutagenesis study by Minassian et al. (
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ), reductions in potency at NaV1.7 and NaV1.2 were observed for [R26A]HwTx-IV and [K27A]HwTx-IV. In the same study, [R29A]HwTx-IV maintained potency equivalent to HwTx-IV but lost potency at NaV1.2 (
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ). Revell et al. (
      • Revell J.D.
      • Lund P.E.
      • Linley J.E.
      • Metcalfe J.
      • Burmeister N.
      • Sridharan S.
      • Jones C.
      • Jermutus L.
      • Bednarek M.A.
      Potency optimization of huwentoxin-IV on hNaV1.7: a neurotoxin TTX-S sodium-channel antagonist from the venom of the Chinese bird-eating spider Selenocosmia huwena.
      ) made similar observations from their alanine scan, where activity at NaV1.7 and NaV1.5 was examined. The study showed that among other HwTx-IV analogues, [R26A]HwTx-IV, [K27A]HwTx-IV, and [R29A]HwTx-IV maintained minimal activity at NaV1.5, but [R26A]HwTx-IV and [K27A]HwTx resulted in loss of activity at NaV1.7 compared with HwTx-IV (
      • Revell J.D.
      • Lund P.E.
      • Linley J.E.
      • Metcalfe J.
      • Burmeister N.
      • Sridharan S.
      • Jones C.
      • Jermutus L.
      • Bednarek M.A.
      Potency optimization of huwentoxin-IV on hNaV1.7: a neurotoxin TTX-S sodium-channel antagonist from the venom of the Chinese bird-eating spider Selenocosmia huwena.
      ). Revell et al. (
      • Revell J.D.
      • Lund P.E.
      • Linley J.E.
      • Metcalfe J.
      • Burmeister N.
      • Sridharan S.
      • Jones C.
      • Jermutus L.
      • Bednarek M.A.
      Potency optimization of huwentoxin-IV on hNaV1.7: a neurotoxin TTX-S sodium-channel antagonist from the venom of the Chinese bird-eating spider Selenocosmia huwena.
      ) further optimized HwTx-IV potency at NaV1.7 by generating a [E1G,E4G,Y33W]HwTx-IV triple mutant, which was also investigated by Rahnama and co-workers (
      • Rahnama S.
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Cardoso F.C.
      • Ramanujam V.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Rash L.D.
      • King G.F.
      • Vetter I.
      • Mobli M.
      The structure, dynamics and selectivity profile of a NaV1.7 potency-optimised huwentoxin-IV variant.
      ) and shown to be 2–3-fold selective for NaV1.7 over NaV1.1, NaV1.2, NaV1.3, and NaV1.6. Here, we have shown that gHwTx-IV mutations forming [K27A]gHwTx-IV and [R29A]gHwTx-IV do not negatively affect potency at NaV1.7, whereas [R26A]gHwTx-IV shows improved potency. This could be because potential losses to affinity for the channel may be compensated for by increased lipid membrane affinity. The lipid bilayer may anchor and concentrate these gHwTx-IV analogues in the lipid membrane near the channel active site. It is possible that previous studies did not see the same effect because those mutations (R26A, K27A, and R29A) were on HwTx-IV, a peptide with less affinity for the lipid bilayer compared with gHwTx-IV. The specific interactions between the basic residues on loop 4 of HwTx-IV and the NaV1.7 voltage-sensor domain remain unclear. Multiple binding models have been proposed using different methods, but no consensus has been reached (
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ,
      • Tzakoniati F.
      • Xu H.
      • Li T.
      • Garcia N.
      • Kugel C.
      • Payandeh J.
      • Koth C.M.
      • Tate E.W.
      Development of photocross-linking probes based on Huwentoxin-IV to map the site of interaction on NaV1.7.
      ,
      • Neff R.A.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Liu Y.
      • Fellows R.
      • Libiger O.
      • Young S.
      • Pennington M.W.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Comprehensive engineering of the tarantula venom peptide huwentoxin-IV to inhibit the human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ). Additionally, because the mutations that make up gHwTx-IV and its analogues may alter the position of the peptide when binding, some interactions may differ.
      Although gHwTx-IV has an increased affinity for the lipid bilayer compared with HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV did not show an improved selectivity profile compared with HwTx-IV, with a comparable lack of selectivity against NaV1.2 and NaV1.1 and a reduction of selectivity against NaV1.3 and NaV1.6 when compared with NaV1.7 (Table 3). This lack of selectivity is most probably because gHwTx-IV is anchored in the lipid bilayer in a similar fashion for all the NaV channels, which is likely to be the same across the channel sub-types particularly in this study where all channels are studied in HEK293 cells. We propose that the improved selectivity profile for the new gHwTx-IV analogues comes from weakening some electrostatic interactions with the voltage-gated ion channels, combined with having the right amount of lipid affinity to anchor the peptides, contributing to an increase in potency at NaV1.7.
      We examined the in vivo efficacy of HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and the most potent analogue, [R26A]gHwTx-IV, using a NaV1.7 engagement model based on intraplantar administration of the NaV1.7 agonist OD1 (
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Wingerd J.S.
      • Winter Z.
      • Durek T.
      • Dekan Z.
      • Sousa S.R.
      • Zimmermann K.
      • Hoffmann T.
      • Weidner C.
      • Nassar M.A.
      • Alewood P.F.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Vetter I.
      Analgesic effects of GpTx-1, PF-04856264, and CNV1014802 in a mouse model of NaV1.7-mediated pain.
      ). HwTx-IV and [R26A]gHwTx-IV significantly decreased nocifensive behaviors compared with the control to a similar extent. Thus, the anti-nocifensive effects observed for [R26A]gHwTx-IV are comparable with those observed for other GMTs using the same model (
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Dekan Z.
      • Wingerd J.S.
      • Smith J.J.
      • Munasinghe N.R.
      • Bhola R.F.
      • Imlach W.L.
      • Herzig V.
      • Armstrong D.A.
      • Rosengren K.J.
      • Bosmans F.
      • Waxman S.G.
      • Dib-Hajj S.D.
      • Escoubas P.
      • Minett M.S.
      • et al.
      Pharmacological characterisation of the highly NaV1.7 selective spider venom peptide Pn3a.
      ,
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Wingerd J.S.
      • Winter Z.
      • Durek T.
      • Dekan Z.
      • Sousa S.R.
      • Zimmermann K.
      • Hoffmann T.
      • Weidner C.
      • Nassar M.A.
      • Alewood P.F.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Vetter I.
      Analgesic effects of GpTx-1, PF-04856264, and CNV1014802 in a mouse model of NaV1.7-mediated pain.
      ,
      • Rahnama S.
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Cardoso F.C.
      • Ramanujam V.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Rash L.D.
      • King G.F.
      • Vetter I.
      • Mobli M.
      The structure, dynamics and selectivity profile of a NaV1.7 potency-optimised huwentoxin-IV variant.
      ). Interestingly, gHwTx-IV had a delayed inhibitory effect, showing no reduction in nocifensive behaviors over the first 10 min post-injection, then causing a decrease in nocifensive behaviors comparable with HwTx-IV over the remainder of the experiment. A similar trend was observed for m3-HwTx-IV when tested in the same OD1 pain model at 100 nm (
      • Rahnama S.
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Cardoso F.C.
      • Ramanujam V.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Rash L.D.
      • King G.F.
      • Vetter I.
      • Mobli M.
      The structure, dynamics and selectivity profile of a NaV1.7 potency-optimised huwentoxin-IV variant.
      ). This suggests that gHwTx-IV and m3-HwTx-IV, which have similar mutations, may have slower on rates at 100 nm compared with HwTx-IV and [R26A]gHwTx-IV. To investigate the delayed inhibitory effect of gHwTx-IV, τ values were measured in vitro. τ values are concentration-dependent, and all in vivo experiments were conducted at 100 nm, so τ values were measured in vitro both at their individual IC90 concentrations and at 100 nm. All three peptides showed different τ values at their individual IC90 concentrations but similar values at 100 nm. At their individual IC90 concentrations, [R26A]gHwTx-IV had the highest τ value, followed by gHwTx-IV, and HwTx-IV had the lowest τ value. These results do not provide a clear explanation for the delayed in vivo activity of gHwTx-IV, as no apparent relationship exists between them. The in vitro order of potencies of the peptides was also not reflected in the in vivo experiments. Although [R26A]gHwTx-IV was 21-fold more potent than HwTx-IV, they showed similar potencies for the entire duration of the NaV1.7 engagement model, as did gHwTx-IV during the latter 20 min of the experiment.
      Optimizing GMTs to access their targets in vivo remains an area for future work if these peptides are to be converted into efficacious drugs. Both HwTx-IV and the most selective analogues of ProTx-II remain toxic in animal models, resulting in death and possible histaminergic effects, respectively (
      • Flinspach M.
      • Xu Q.
      • Piekarz A.D.
      • Fellows R.
      • Hagan R.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Freedman J.
      • Eckert W.A.
      • Zhou M.
      • Bonesteel R.
      • Pennington M.W.
      • Eddinger K.A.
      • Yaksh T.L.
      • et al.
      Insensitivity to pain induced by a potent selective closed-state NaV1.7 inhibitor.
      ,
      • Schmalhofer W.A.
      • Calhoun J.
      • Burrows R.
      • Bailey T.
      • Kohler M.G.
      • Weinglass A.B.
      • Kaczorowski G.J.
      • Garcia M.L.
      • Koltzenburg M.
      • Priest B.T.
      ProTx-II, a selective inhibitor of NaV1.7 sodium channels, blocks action potential propagation in nociceptors.
      ). Gonçalves and co-workers (
      • Gonçalves T.C.
      • Boukaiba R.
      • Molgó J.
      • Amar M.
      • Partiseti M.
      • Servent D.
      • Benoit E.
      Direct evidence for high affinity blockade of NaV1.6 channel subtype by huwentoxin-IV spider peptide, using multiscale functional approaches.
      ) have recently proposed that HwTx-IV's off-target activity at NaV1.6 is responsible for neuromuscular toxicity (
      • Gonçalves T.C.
      • Boukaiba R.
      • Molgó J.
      • Amar M.
      • Partiseti M.
      • Servent D.
      • Benoit E.
      Direct evidence for high affinity blockade of NaV1.6 channel subtype by huwentoxin-IV spider peptide, using multiscale functional approaches.
      ); therefore, an area for future investigations could be to examine whether the selectivity and efficacy of [R26A]gHwTx-IV is accompanied by a loss of neuromuscular toxicity in vivo or whether systemic dosing leads to motor side effects.
      Taking the in vivo and in vitro data together, we have shown here that it is possible to engineer selective modulators of NaV1.7 while considering interactions with the lipid bilayers. The in vitro data give only a partial understanding of GMT behavior and further in vivo target engagement studies are therefore crucial to fully appreciate the biological activity of NaV1.7 modulators.

      Conclusion

      Here, we have considered all three components of the tri-molecular complex by investigating peptide–lipid bilayer as well as peptide–channel interactions in the quest to design potent and selective modulators of NaV1.7. As seen for [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV, peptides do not require maximal affinity for the lipid bilayer to display an increase in potency at NaV1.7. Instead, for this suite of peptides, an intermediate affinity for lipid bilayers somewhere between gHwTx-IV and HwTx-IV is optimal for potency and selectivity. GMTs are probably adapted more for contact with the channel than for contact with the lipid bilayer (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ); therefore, we propose that the tripartite relationship formed by gHwTx-IV and its analogues occurs such that the peptides are nestled between the extracellular loops formed by S3 and S4 and S1 and S2 and probably interact with the phospholipid headgroups in this region (Fig. 8B). We have previously discussed the possibility of this binding mode (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxin interactions with ion channels and lipid bilayers: is the trimolecular complex real?.
      ), and others have used molecular dynamics combined with channel mutagenesis studies on similar GMTs to demonstrate the same binding mode (
      • Minassian N.A.
      • Gibbs A.
      • Shih A.Y.
      • Liu Y.
      • Neff R.A.
      • Sutton S.W.
      • Mirzadegan T.
      • Connor J.
      • Fellows R.
      • Husovsky M.
      • Nelson S.
      • Hunter M.J.
      • Flinspach M.
      • Wickenden A.D.
      Analysis of the structural and molecular basis of voltage-sensitive sodium channel inhibition by the spider toxin huwentoxin-IV (μ-TRTX-Hh2a).
      ,
      • Cai T.
      • Luo J.
      • Meng E.
      • Ding J.
      • Liang S.
      • Wang S.
      • Liu Z.
      Mapping the interaction site for the tarantula toxin hainantoxin-IV (β-TRTX-Hn2a) in the voltage sensor module of domain II of voltage-gated sodium channels.
      ,
      • Lau C.H.Y.
      • King G.F.
      • Mobli M.
      Molecular basis of the interaction between gating modifier spider toxins and the voltage sensor of voltage-gated ion channels.
      ). X-ray crystallography has recently been used to support this GMT-binding mode, showing ProTx-II interacting with the membrane (
      • Xu H.
      • Li T.
      • Rohou A.
      • Arthur C.P.
      • Tzakoniati F.
      • Wong E.
      • Estevez A.
      • Kugel C.
      • Franke Y.
      • Chen J.
      • Ciferri C.
      • Hackos D.H.
      • Koth C.M.
      • Payandeh J.
      Structural basis of NaV1.7 inhibition by a gating-modifier spider toxin.
      ). Alternatively, the GMTs are first attracted to the anionic environment surrounding voltage-gated ion channels via electrostatic interactions, then concentrated in the lipid bilayer, and oriented externally near the S3- and S4-binding site on domain II of NaV1.7 (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxin interactions with ion channels and lipid bilayers: is the trimolecular complex real?.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chaousis S.
      • Inserra M.
      • Thongyoo P.
      • King G.F.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Vetter I.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Interaction of tarantula venom peptide ProTx-II with lipid membranes is a prerequisite for its inhibition of human voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7.
      ,
      • Lee S.-Y.
      • MacKinnon R.
      A membrane-access mechanism of ion channel inhibition by voltage sensor toxins from spider venom.
      ,
      • Mihailescu M.
      • Krepkiy D.
      • Milescu M.
      • Gawrisch K.
      • Swartz K.J.
      • White S.
      Structural interactions of a voltage sensor toxin with lipid membranes.
      ,
      • Milescu M.
      • Bosmans F.
      • Lee S.
      • Alabi A.A.
      • Kim J.I.
      • Swartz K.J.
      Interactions between lipids and voltage sensor paddles detected with tarantula toxins.
      ,
      • Xu H.
      • Li T.
      • Rohou A.
      • Arthur C.P.
      • Tzakoniati F.
      • Wong E.
      • Estevez A.
      • Kugel C.
      • Franke Y.
      • Chen J.
      • Ciferri C.
      • Hackos D.H.
      • Koth C.M.
      • Payandeh J.
      Structural basis of NaV1.7 inhibition by a gating-modifier spider toxin.
      ). In our hands, every spider GMT has shown a distinct set of behavioral patterns with respect to the lipid bilayer and voltage-gated sodium channels (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ); therefore, we believe it is not possible to make sweeping statements about GMT behavior. Nevertheless, as we have shown here with HwTx-IV and previously with ProTx-II (
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chaousis S.
      • Inserra M.
      • Thongyoo P.
      • King G.F.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Vetter I.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Interaction of tarantula venom peptide ProTx-II with lipid membranes is a prerequisite for its inhibition of human voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7.
      ), detailed studies on individual GMTs can produce novel insight and approaches to optimizing these peptides for use as potential drugs for pain and other NaV-dependent pathologies. We anticipate that new technologies, including cryogenic EM, will help us to overcome current limitations and allow future studies to focus on investigating the three components (GMTs, model lipid bilayers, and voltage-gated ion channels) simultaneously (
      • Xu H.
      • Li T.
      • Rohou A.
      • Arthur C.P.
      • Tzakoniati F.
      • Wong E.
      • Estevez A.
      • Kugel C.
      • Franke Y.
      • Chen J.
      • Ciferri C.
      • Hackos D.H.
      • Koth C.M.
      • Payandeh J.
      Structural basis of NaV1.7 inhibition by a gating-modifier spider toxin.
      ,
      • Shen H.
      • Liu D.
      • Wu K.
      • Lei J.
      • Yan N.
      Structures of human NaV1.7 channel in complex with auxiliary subunits and animal toxins.
      ), providing a complete picture of the different interactions.

      Materials and methods

       Peptide synthesis

      Peptides were assembled using Fmoc (N-(9-fluorenyl)methoxycarbonyl) chemistry on a Rink amide resin (for C-terminal amidation) on a scale of 0.25 mmol/g using an automated Symphony peptide synthesizer (Gyros Protein Technologies Inc., Tucson, AZ), as described previously (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Huang Y.-H.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Lengths of the C terminus and interconnecting loops impact stability of spider-derived gating modifier toxins.
      ). Side-chain protecting groups for HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, [R26A]gHwTx-IV, and [K27A]gHwTx-IV were Arg(Pbf), Asp(tBu), Asn(Trt), Cys (Trt), Gln(Trt), Glu(tBu), Lys(Boc), Ser(tBu), Thr(tBu), Trp(Boc), and Tyr(tBu). Additionally, as described, Acm was used for Cys II and Cys V and 4-MeBzl for Cys I and Cys IV to facilitate orthogonal oxidation of [R29A]gHwTx-IV. Cleavage from resin and removal of side-chain protecting groups (except Acm and 4-MeBzl) was simultaneously achieved in 96% (v/v) TFA, 2% (v/v) triisopropylsilane, and 2% (v/v) H2O for 2.5 h followed by diethyl ether trituration prior to solubilizing the peptide in 45% (v/v) acetonitrile (ACN), 0.05% (v/v) TFA (solvent AB) followed by lyophilization. Reduced peptides were purified using reverse-phase HPLC (RP-HPLC) as before (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Huang Y.-H.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Lengths of the C terminus and interconnecting loops impact stability of spider-derived gating modifier toxins.
      ).

       Oxidative folding of inhibitor cystine knot peptides

      As described previously (
      • Revell J.D.
      • Lund P.E.
      • Linley J.E.
      • Metcalfe J.
      • Burmeister N.
      • Sridharan S.
      • Jones C.
      • Jermutus L.
      • Bednarek M.A.
      Potency optimization of huwentoxin-IV on hNaV1.7: a neurotoxin TTX-S sodium-channel antagonist from the venom of the Chinese bird-eating spider Selenocosmia huwena.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Xiao Y.
      • Luo X.
      • Kuang F.
      • Deng M.
      • Wang M.
      • Zeng X.
      • Liang S.
      Synthesis and characterization of huwentoxin-IV, a neurotoxin inhibiting central neuronal sodium channels.
      ), oxidation of HwTx-IV was achieved in 16 h using 5 mm GSH, 0.5 mm GSSG, 0.1 m Tris (pH 8) at room temperature for 16 h (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Xiao Y.
      • Luo X.
      • Kuang F.
      • Deng M.
      • Wang M.
      • Zeng X.
      • Liang S.
      Synthesis and characterization of huwentoxin-IV, a neurotoxin inhibiting central neuronal sodium channels.
      ). gHwTx-IV, [R26A]gHwTx-IV, and [K27A]gHwTx-IV were oxidized for 48 h at room temperature using 5 mm GSH, 1 mm GSSG, 0.1 m Tris, 10% (v/v) isopropyl alcohol at pH 8 (
      • Revell J.D.
      • Lund P.E.
      • Linley J.E.
      • Metcalfe J.
      • Burmeister N.
      • Sridharan S.
      • Jones C.
      • Jermutus L.
      • Bednarek M.A.
      Potency optimization of huwentoxin-IV on hNaV1.7: a neurotoxin TTX-S sodium-channel antagonist from the venom of the Chinese bird-eating spider Selenocosmia huwena.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ).
      For [R29A]gHwTx-IV (Fig. 2), the Trt-protecting groups on Cys III and Cys VI were removed during cleavage, and the disulfide bridge between these free cysteines was formed by incubating the peptide (0.1 mg/ml) in 30% (v/v) DMSO/H2O for 24 h. The peptide was purified using previously described semi-preparatory methods (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ) and lyophilized prior to removal of Acm protecting groups from Cys II and Cys V with simultaneous oxidation of the free cysteines (1 mg/ml) using 20 molar eq of I2 in 15% (v/v) MeOH, 42.5% (v/v) AcOH, and 42.5% (v/v) H2O. 0.1 m ascorbic acid was used to quench the reaction after 10 min, and the peptide was purified (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ) and lyophilized. Finally, the 4-MeBzl groups were removed at 0 °C for 1 h using hydrogen fluoride for cleavage and p-cresol as a scavenger. The peptide was extracted from the cleavage solution using diethyl ether and extracted from the diethyl ether using phase separation in 45% (v/v) ACN, 0.05% (v/v) TFA, in H2O, and the Cys I–Cys IV pair was oxidized over 24 h by diluting to 0.05 mg/ml peptide, 22.5% (v/v) ACN, and 33% (v/v) DMSO in H2O. Each step of peptide oxidation was monitored using MALDI-TOF MS and analytical RP-HPLC as described previously (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ). Once oxidation was complete, the peptide was purified as before (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ), lyophilized, and stored at −20 °C.

       Peptide quantification

      HwTx-IV, gHwTx-IV, and the three analogues contain aromatic residues allowing for Nanodrop quantification using the following extinction coefficients: HwTx-IV ɛ280 = 7365 m−1·cm−1 and gHwTx-IV, [R26A]gHwTx-IV, [K27A]gHwTx-IV, and [R29A]gHwTx-IV ɛ280 = 17,430 m−1·cm−1.

       NMR spectroscopy

      As described previously (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ), 1D 1H and 2D 1H–1H TOCSY and NOESY spectra (80- and 200-ms mixing time, respectively) were used to confirm the structural integrity of the peptides (
      • Braunschweiler L.
      • Ernst R.R.
      Coherence transfer by isotropic mixing: application to proton correlation spectroscopy.
      ,
      • Jeener J.
      • Meier B.H.
      • Bachmann P.
      • Ernst R.R.
      Investigation of exchange processes by two-dimensional NMR spectroscopy.
      ). Spectra were obtained on a cryoprobe-equipped Bruker Avance III 600 MHz spectrometer (Bruker Biospin, Callerica, MA). TopSpin 3.5 (Bruker) was used to process the spectra, and sequential assignments were completed using CCPNMR analysis 2.4.1 (CCPN, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK) (
      • Wüthrich K.
      ).

       Affinity of HwTx-IV and analogues for model lipid bilayers

      As described previously (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Peigneur S.
      • Chow C.Y.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Tytgat J.
      • King G.F.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Gating modifier toxins isolated from spider venom: modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels and the role of lipid membranes.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chaousis S.
      • Inserra M.
      • Thongyoo P.
      • King G.F.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Vetter I.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Interaction of tarantula venom peptide ProTx-II with lipid membranes is a prerequisite for its inhibition of human voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7.
      ,
      • Deplazes E.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Smith J.J.
      • King G.F.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Mark A.E.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Membrane-binding properties of gating modifier and pore-blocking toxins: membrane interaction is not a prerequisite for modification of channel gating.
      ,
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Huang Y.-H.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      Lengths of the C terminus and interconnecting loops impact stability of spider-derived gating modifier toxins.
      ), model lipid bilayers were prepared using POPC and POPS (Avanti Polar Lipids, Alabaster, AL). SPR (Biacore 3000, GE Healthcare) was used to examine the amount of peptide bound to zwitterionic POPC and anionic POPC/POPS (4:1 molar ratio) deposited on an L1 sensor chip. Peptides were then injected onto the lipid surface and followed for the duration of association and dissociation. Data at 170 s (near the end of association) were collected, corrected for buffer contribution, and normalized using the assumption that 1 response unit = 1 pg/mm2 of lipid deposited (or peptide injected). As described previously (
      • Agwa A.J.
      • Lawrence N.
      • Deplazes E.
      • Cheneval O.
      • Chen R.M.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      Spider peptide toxin HwTx-IV engineered to bind to lipid membranes has an increased inhibitory potency at human voltage-gated sodium channel hNaV1.7.
      ,
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Huang Y.H.
      • Rosengren K.J.
      • Franquelim H.G.
      • Carvalho F.A.
      • Johnson A.
      • Sonza S.
      • Tachedjian G.
      • Castanho M.A.
      • Daly N.L.
      • Craik D.J.
      Decoding the membrane activity of the cyclotide kalata B1: the importance of phosphatidylethanolamine phospholipids and lipid organization on hemolytic and anti-HIV activities.
      ), data were fitted to a one-site specific binding curve, and maximum P/L (mol/mol) was extrapolated from the line-of-best-fit using GraphPad Prism, version 8.0.2 (GraphPad Software Inc, San Diego, CA).

       Cell culture

      HEK293 cells heterologously expressing human NaV1.1, NaV1.2, NaV1.3, NaV1.4, NaV1.5, NaV1.6, and NaV1.7 containing α and β1 subunits (SB Drug Discovery, Glasgow, Scotland, UK) were maintained at 37 °C in a 5% CO2-humidified incubator within T75 flasks containing minimal essential medium Eagle's, supplemented with 10% (v/v) heat-inactivated fetal bovine serum, and 1% (v/v) GlutaMAX. Selection antibiotics included 600 μg/ml geneticin for all the cell lines, and 2 μg/ml blasticidin for NaV1.1, NaV1.3, NaV1.4, and NaV1.5. NaV1.2, NaV1.6, and NaV1.7 contained 4 μg/ml blasticidin. NaV1.4 also contained 500 μg/ml Zeocin. Replicating cells were subcultured at 70–80% confluence using 0.1% (v/v) trypLE express reagent (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, MA).

       Potency and affinity determination by automated patch-clamp electrophysiology

      Automated patch-clamp electrophysiology assays were performed as described previously using a QPatch-16 automated electrophysiology platform (Sophion Bioscience, Ballerup, Denmark) (
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Dekan Z.
      • Inserra M.C.
      • Lee T.H.
      • Aguilar M.I.
      • Craik D.J.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Alewood P.F.
      • Mobli M.
      • Schroeder C.I.
      • Henriques S.T.
      • Vetter I.
      Development of a μO-conotoxin analogue with improved lipid membrane interactions and potency for the analgesic sodium channel NaV1.8.
      ). In brief, HEK293 cells were dissociated with trypLE Express (Invitrogen) and suspended in Ham's F-12 with 25 mm HEPES, 100 units/ml penicillin-streptomycin, and 0.04 mg/ml soybean trypsin inhibitor, and then stirred for 30–60 min. Extracellular solution contained (mm) 70 NaCl, 70 choline chloride, 4 KCl, 2 CaCl2, 1 MgCl2, 10 HEPES, and 10 glucose adjusted to pH 7.4, 305 mosm. For subtypes 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.6, concentrations of NaCl were increased to 140 mm to adjust for smaller currents. Intracellular solution contained (mm) 140 CsF, 1 EGTA, 5 CsOH, 10 HEPES, and 10 NaCl adjusted to pH 7.3 with CsOH, 320 mosm.
      Peptides were diluted in extracellular solution with 0.1% BSA. Assays were run with a holding potential of −90 mV pulsed to −20 mV for 50 ms at 0.05 Hz. Activity assays were performed with 5-min incubation periods after each peptide addition. To measure τ values, 100 nm HwTx-IV, 20 nm gHwTx-IV, and 10 nm [R26A]gHwTx-IV were added to cells and incubated for 20 min. Inhibition was quantified by measuring peak current, and all values were normalized to buffer control. Concentration–response curves were plotted with GraphPad Prism, version 8.0.2 (GraphPad Software Inc.), fitted with a four-parameter Hill equation with variable Hill coefficient. Time constants of block data were also plotted with GraphPad Prism, and τ values were calculated by fitting data to a one-phase decay. Data are presented as mean ± S.E.

       Examination of subtype selectivity using FLIPR

      The FLIPRTETRA plate reader (Molecular Devices, Sunnyvale, CA) was used to examine activity of the peptides at NaV channels as described previously (
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Wingerd J.S.
      • Winter Z.
      • Durek T.
      • Dekan Z.
      • Sousa S.R.
      • Zimmermann K.
      • Hoffmann T.
      • Weidner C.
      • Nassar M.A.
      • Alewood P.F.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Vetter I.
      Analgesic effects of GpTx-1, PF-04856264, and CNV1014802 in a mouse model of NaV1.7-mediated pain.
      ). In brief, freshly-dissociated cells were plated into 384-well clear-bottom black-walled imaging plates (Corning, NY) at a density of 10,000–15,000 cells per well. After 48 h, the growth media were removed from the wells, and the cells were loaded with 20 μl per well red membrane potential dye (Molecular Devices) diluted in physiological salt solution (PSS; composition (mm): NaCl 140, glucose 11.5, KCl 5.9, MgCl2 1.4, Na2H2PO4 1.2, NaHCO3 5, CaCl2 1.8, HEPES 10 (pH 7.4)) according to the manufacturer's instructions for 30 min at 37 °C, 5% CO2. Peptides were diluted in PSS, 0.1% (w/v) BSA and added to the cells to achieve concentrations ranging from 10 μm to 0.3 nm and incubated for 5 min. NaV channels were stimulated using 60 μm veratridine, and changes to membrane potential were measured with a cooled CCD camera (excitation 515–545 nm, emission 565–625 nm) with reads taken every 1 s for 10 s before (baseline values) and for 300 s after addition of veratridine. PSS and 0.1% (w/v) BSA was used as a negative control. ScreenWorks 3.2.0.14 (Molecular Devices) was used to compute the area under the curve over 300 s, and the data were plotted and analyzed using GraphPad Prism, version 8.0.2 (GraphPad Software Inc.), to quantify inhibitory effects of the peptides. To calculate concentration–response curves, a four-parameter Hill equation with variable Hill slope was fitted to the data. All data are expressed as the mean ± S.E. and are representative of at least three independent experiments (three wells per experiment). Potency of each peptide at off-targets is compared with potency of the specific peptide at NaV1.7 (Table 3).

       In vivo NaV1.7 target engagement

      Animal ethics approval was obtained from the Animal Ethics Committee of University of Queensland. All experiments were conducted in accordance with local and national regulations and the International Associations for the Study of Pain Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research. Male C57BL/6J mice aged 6–8 weeks (20–25 g) were housed in 12-h light/dark cycles with access to food and water ad libitum. To assess the in vivo effect of peptide analogues, an OD1-induced model of NaV1.7 target engagement was used as described previously (
      • Deuis J.R.
      • Wingerd J.S.
      • Winter Z.
      • Durek T.
      • Dekan Z.
      • Sousa S.R.
      • Zimmermann K.
      • Hoffmann T.
      • Weidner C.
      • Nassar M.A.
      • Alewood P.F.
      • Lewis R.J.
      • Vetter I.
      Analgesic effects of GpTx-1, PF-04856264, and CNV1014802 in a mouse model of NaV1.7-mediated pain.
      ).
      Briefly, the NaV1.7-selective α-scorpion toxin OD1 (300 nm) was diluted in phosphate-buffered solution and 0.1% (w/v) BSA. Under brief and light anesthesia (3% (v/v) isoflurane), mice were administered OD1 (40 μl of 300 nm) via shallow intraplantar injection into the dorsal hind paw. Animals received OD1 alone (control, n ≥ 3) or were co-administered OD1 with gHwTx-IV or R26A[gHwTx-IV] (40 μl of 100 nm, n = 3). Following injection, mice were allowed to recover in polyvinyl boxes and were video recorded for 30 min post-injection. Spontaneous nocifensive behaviors (paw lifts, licks, shakes, and flinches) were counted by a blinded observer.

      Author contributions

      A. J. A., J. R. D., and C. I. S. conceptualization; A. J. A. and I. V. data curation; A. J. A. and P. T. formal analysis; A. J. A., P. T., A. M., H. N. T., J. R. D., M. R. I., K. L. M., and I. V. investigation; A. J. A., P. T., A. M., H. N. T., J. R. D., M. R. I., K. L. M., I. V., and C. I. S. methodology; A. J. A., P. T., A. M., J. R. D., I. V., and C. I. S. writing-original draft; A. J. A., P. T., A. M., H. N. T., J. R. D., M. R. I., K. L. M., D. J. C., I. V., and C. I. S. writing-review and editing; J. R. D., I. V., and C. I. S. supervision; I. V. and C. I. S. resources; I. V. and C. I. S. project administration; C. I. S. funding acquisition.

      Acknowledgments

      The authors from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience thank Olivier Cheneval for assistance with assembly of peptides and Dr. Johannes Koehbach and Dr. Thomas Durek for HF cleavage. We thank Zoltan Dekan (Institute for Molecular Bioscience) for discussions about orthogonal oxidation of disulfide-rich peptides. We also thank Dr. Sónia Henriques (School of Biomedical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology) for her expertise on peptide–lipid membrane interactions.

      Supplementary Material

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