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The voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7 is an important target for drug development due to its role in pain perception. Recombinant expression of full-length channels and their use for biophysical characterization of interactions with potential drug candidates is challenging due to the protein size and complexity. To overcome this issue, we developed a protocol for the recombinant expression in E. coli and refolding into lipids of the isolated voltage sensing domain (VSD) of repeat II of NaV1.7, obtaining yields of about 2 mg of refolded VSD from 1 L bacterial cell culture. This VSD is known to be involved in the binding of a number of gating-modifier toxins, including the tarantula toxins ProTx-II and GpTx-I. Binding studies using microscale thermophoresis showed that recombinant refolded VSD binds both of these toxins with dissociation constants in the high nM range, and their relative binding affinities reflect the relative IC50 values of these toxins for full-channel inhibition. Additionally, we expressed mutant VSDs incorporating single amino acid substitutions that had previously been shown to affect the activity of ProTx-II on full channel. We found decreases in GpTx-I binding affinity for these mutants, consistent with a similar binding mechanism for GpTx-I as compared to that of ProTx-II. Therefore, this recombinant VSD captures many of the native interactions between NaV1.7 and tarantula gating-modifier toxins and represents a valuable tool for elucidating details of toxin binding and specificity that could help in the design of non-addictive pain medication acting through NaV1.7 inhibition.


This work was originally published in Toxins available at

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (



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