Hormone-like conopeptides – new tools for pharmaceutical design
Conopeptides are a diverse family of peptides found in the venoms of marine cone snails and are used in prey capture and host defence. Because of their potent activity on a range of mammalian targets they have attracted interest as leads in drug design. Until recently most focus had been on studying conopeptides having activity at ion channels and related neurological targets but, with recent discoveries that some conopeptides might play hormonal roles, a new area of conopeptide research has opened. In this article we first summarize the canonical pharmaceutical families of Conus venom peptides and then focus on new research relating to hormone-like conopeptides and their potential applications. Finally, we briefly examine methods of chemically stabilizing conopeptides to improve their pharmacological properties. A summary is presented of conopeptides in clinical trials and a call for future work on hormone-like conopeptides.