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EMBO J. Dec 1993; 12(12): 4821–4828.
PMCID: PMC413934

Botulinum neurotoxin C1 blocks neurotransmitter release by means of cleaving HPC-1/syntaxin.


The anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum produces several related neurotoxins that block exocytosis of synaptic vesicles in nerve terminals and that are responsible for the clinical manifestations of botulism. Recently, it was reported that botulinum neurotoxin type B as well as tetanus toxin act as zinc-dependent proteases that specifically cleave synaptobrevin, a membrane protein of synaptic vesicles (Link et al., Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun., 189, 1017-1023; Schiavo et al., Nature, 359, 832-835). Here we report that inhibition of neurotransmitter release by botulinum neurotoxin type C1 was associated with the proteolysis of HPC-1 (= syntaxin), a membrane protein present in axonal and synaptic membranes. Breakdown of HPC-1/syntaxin was selective since no other protein degradation was detectable. In vitro studies showed that the breakdown was due to a direct interaction between HPC-1/syntaxin and the toxin light chain which acts as a metallo-endoprotease. Toxin-induced cleavage resulted in the generation of a soluble fragment of HPC-1/syntaxin that is 2-4 kDa smaller than the native protein. When HPC-1/syntaxin was translated in vitro, cleavage occurred only when translation was performed in the presence of microsomes, although a full-length product was obtained in the absence of membranes. However, susceptibility to toxin cleavage was restored when the product of membrane-free translation was subsequently incorporated into artificial proteoliposomes. In addition, a translated form of HPC-1/syntaxin, which lacked the putative transmembrane domain at the C-terminus, was soluble and resistant to toxin action. We conclude that HPC-1/syntaxin is involved in exocytotic membrane fusion.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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