Marine drugs have developed rapidly in recent decades. Cone snails, a group of more than 700 species, have always been one of the focuses for new drug discovery. These venomous snails capture prey using a diverse array of unique bioactive neurotoxins, usually named as conotoxins or conopeptides. These conotoxins have proven to be valuable pharmacological probes and potential drugs due to their high specificity and affinity to ion channels, receptors, and transporters in the nervous systems of target prey and humans. Several research groups, including ours, have examined the venom gland of cone snails using a combination of transcriptomic and proteomic sequencing, and revealed the existence of hundreds of conotoxin transcripts and thousands of conopeptides in each Conus
species. Over 2000 nucleotide and 8000 peptide sequences of conotoxins have been published, and the number is still increasing quickly. However, more than 98% of these sequences still lack 3D structural and functional information. With the rapid development of genomics and bioinformatics in recent years, functional predictions and investigations on conotoxins are making great progress in promoting the discovery of novel drugs. For example, ω-MVIIA was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004 to treat chronic pain, and nine more conotoxins are at various stages of preclinical or clinical evaluation. In short, the genus Conus
, the big family of cone snails, has become an important genetic resource for conotoxin identification and drug development.
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