Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT OF DETECTION TECHNOLOGIES FOR TOXINS AND THEIR VALIDATION IN FOOD MATRICES Title: Botulinum neurotoxin: a deadly protease with applications to human medicine

Authors
item Land, Kirkland -
item Cheng, Luisa Wai Wai

Submitted to: Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: August 23, 2010
Publication Date: December 1, 2010
Citation: Land, K.M., Cheng, L.W. 2010. Botulinum neurotoxin: a deadly protease with applications to human medicine. Current Research, Technology and Education Topics in Applied Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology. Spain. Formatex Research Center. 965-971.

Interpretive Summary: Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are some of the most dangerous substances to humans. These poisons are made by a specific bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. These poisons pose bioterrorism concerns and are listed as Select Agents. Ironically, BoNT, also known as BOTOX®, is used quite liberally among the population for cosmetic reasons. Less well known are the many medical uses of BoNT. In this review, BoNTs will be explored from perspectives as human poison and medicine. New technologies to quickly detect and interfere with the poisonous effects of the BoNTs will also be presented and discussed.

Technical Abstract: Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are some of the most potent biological toxins to humans. They are synthesized by the gram-positive, spore-forming bacterium Clostridium botulinum. BoNT is secreted from the bacterium as a ~150 kDa polypeptide which is cleaved by bacterial or host proteases into a ~50 kDa light chain and a ~100 kDa heavy chain disulfide-linked protein. The light chain of the toxin contains the catalytic domain that blocks acetylcholine release from neurons and results in flaccid muscle paralysis. Four serotypes of this pathogen have thus far been associated with human foodborne contamination. Due to their potent toxicity, botulinum neurotoxins pose bioterrorism concerns and are listed as Select Agents. Ironically, BoNTs, also known as BOTOX®, are used quite liberally among the population for cosmetic reasons. Less well known are the many medical uses of BoNT, such as treatment for strabismus, cervical distonia, and an ever-increasing list of medical ailments. In this review, BoNTs will be explored from perspectives as human poisons or medicines. New technologies to identify and neutralize the effects of the toxin will also be presented and discussed.

Last Modified: 12/18/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page