Cannabinoid receptor agonists from Conus venoms alleviate pain-related behavior in rats

Stanislava Jergova, Cecilia Perez, Julita S. Imperial, Shyam Gajavelli, Aakangsha Jain, Adam Abin, Baldomero M. Olivera, Jacqueline Sagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cannabinoid (CB) receptor agonists show robust antinociceptive effects in various pain models. However, most of the clinically potent CB1 receptor-active drugs derived from cannabis are considered concerning due to psychotomimetic side effects. Selective CB receptor ligands that do not induce CNS side effects are of clinical interest. The venoms of marine snail Conus are a natural source of various potent analgesic peptides, some of which are already FDA approved. In this study we evaluated the ability of several Conus venom extracts to interact with CB1 receptor. HEK293 cells expressing CB1 receptors were treated with venom extracts and CB1 receptor internalization was analyzed by immunofluorescence. Results showed C. textile (C. Tex) and C. miles (C. Mil) samples as the most potent. These were serially subfractionated by HPLC for subsequent analysis by internalization assays and for analgesic potency evaluated in the formalin test and after peripheral nerve injury. Intrathecal injection of C. Tex and C. Mil subfractions reduced flinching/licking behavior during the second phase of formalin test and attenuated thermal and mechanical allodynia in nerve injury model. Treatment with proteolytic enzymes reduced CB1 internalization of subfractions, indicating the peptidergic nature of CB1 active component. Further HPLC purification revealed two potent antinociceptive subfractions within C. Tex with CB1 and possible CB2 activity, with mild to no side effects in the CB tetrad assessment. CB conopeptides can be isolated from these active Conus venom-derived samples and further developed as novel analgesic agents for the treatment of chronic pain using cell based or gene therapy approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number173182
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Cannabinoids
  • Chronic pain
  • Conopeptides
  • Gene therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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