Cone snails are carnivorous marine gastropods that have evolved potent venoms to capture their prey. These venoms comprise a rich and diverse cocktail of peptide toxins, or conopeptides, whose high diversity has arisen from an efficient hypermutation mechanism, combined with a high frequency of post-translational modifications. Conopeptides bind with high specificity to distinct membrane receptors, ion channels, and transporters of the central and muscular nervous system. As well as serving their natural function in prey capture, conopeptides have been utilized as versatile tools in neuroscience and have proven valuable as drug leads that target the nervous system in humans. This paper examines current knowledge on conopeptide sequences based on an analysis of gene and peptide sequences in ConoServer (http://www.conoserver.org), a specialized database of conopeptide sequences and three-dimensional structures. We describe updates to the content and organization of ConoServer and discuss correlations between gene superfamilies, cysteine frameworks, pharmacological families targeted by conopeptides, and the phylogeny, habitat, and diet of cone snails. The study identifies gaps in current knowledge of conopeptides and points to potential directions for future research.
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