The cone snails are predators of the sea. They capture fish by injecting a venom into the prey that consists of a cocktail of different substances. The single components of the snails’ venom, conopeptides, are known for their extraordinary pharmacological properties and potential. One example is Ziconotid (Prialt), a conopeptide that is prescribed as a pain medicine.
Heinrich Terlau, Universities of Kiel, Germany, and colleagues examined the venom of the cone snail Conus striatus. They were able to prove that a certain peptide (Conkunitzin-S1) alters the release of insulin in the pancreas cells.
Patients with type 2 diabetes suffer from an excessive sugar level or hyperglycaemia. The newly discovered substance binds to a specific potassium channel in the pancreas cells and leads to a temporaryly increased release of insulin but only if the blood sugar level is raised.
Following oral glucose tolerance tests on rats, the scientists found that Conkunitzin-S1 does not lead to hypoglycaemia. In other words, the typical side effects of some conventional type 2 diabetes medications do not occur.
- Block of Kv1.7 currents increases glucose-stimulated insulin secretion,
Rocio K. Finol-Urdaneta, Maria S. Remedi, Walter Raasch, Stefan Becker, Robert B. Clark, Nina Strüver, Evgeny Pavlov, Colin G. Nichols, Robert J. French Heinrich Terlau,
EMBO Molec. Med. 2012.
EMBO Molecular Medicine, one of the highest cited journals in the biomedical sciences, is now a fully Open Access journal.