An α-helical II—III loop segment of the dihydropyridine receptor activates the ryanodine receptor calcium-release channel. We describe a novel manipulation in which this agonist's activity is increased by modifying its surface structure to resemble that of a toxin molecule. In a unique system, native β-sheet scorpion toxins have been reported to activate skeletal muscle ryanodine receptor calcium channels with high affinity by binding to the same site as the lower-affinity α-helical dihydropyridine receptor segment. We increased the alignment of basic residues in the α-helical peptide to mimic the spatial orientation of active residues in the scorpion toxin, with a consequent 2—20-fold increase in the activity of the α-helical peptide. We hypothesized that, like the native peptide, the modified peptide and the scorpion toxin may bind to a common site. This was supported by (i) similar changes in ryanodine receptor channel gating induced by the native or modified α-helical peptide and the β-sheet toxin, a 10—100-fold reduction in channel closed time, with a ≤2-fold increase in open dwell time and (ii) a failure of the toxin to further activate channels activated by the peptides. These results suggest that diverse structural scaffolds can present similar conformational surface properties to target common receptor sites.