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Open Access Nano Express

Designing a C84 fullerene as a specific voltage-gated sodium channel blocker

Tamsyn A Hilder* and Shin-Ho Chung

Author affiliations

Computational Biophysics Group, Research School of Biology, Australian National University, ACT 0200 Canberra, Australia

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Citation and License

Nanoscale Research Letters 2013, 8:323  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-8-323

Published: 16 July 2013


Fullerene derivatives demonstrate considerable potential for numerous biological applications, such as the effective inhibition of HIV protease. Recently, they were identified for their ability to indiscriminately block biological ion channels. A fullerene derivative which specifically blocks a particular ion channel could lead to a new set of drug leads for the treatment of various ion channel-related diseases. Here, we demonstrate their extraordinary potential by designing a fullerene which mimics some of the functions of μ-conotoxin, a peptide derived from cone snail venom which potently binds to the bacterial voltage-gated sodium channel (NavAb). We show, using molecular dynamics simulations, that the C84 fullerene with six lysine derivatives uniformly attached to its surface is selective to NavAb over a voltage-gated potassium channel (Kv1.3). The side chain of one of the lysine residues protrudes into the selectivity filter of the channel, while the methionine residues located just outside of the channel form hydrophobic contacts with the carbon atoms of the fullerene. The modified C84 fullerene strongly binds to the NavAb channel with an affinity of 46 nM but binds weakly to Kv1.3 with an affinity of 3 mM. This potent blocker of NavAb may serve as a structural template from which potent compounds can be designed for the targeting of mammalian Nav channels. There is a genuine need to target mammalian Nav channels as a form of treatment of various diseases which have been linked to their malfunction, such as epilepsy and chronic pain.

C84 fullerene derivative; Bacterial voltage-gated sodium channel NavAb; Voltage-gated potassium channel Kv1.3; Binding; Molecular dynamics; 87.85.Qr; 87.85.Rs; 87.10.Tf