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Mol Biol Cell. 2001 Oct;12(10):2947-60.

Lipid rafts act as specialized domains for tetanus toxin binding and internalization into neurons.

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  • 1Molecular Neuropathobiology, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, WC2A 3PX London, United Kingdom.


Tetanus (TeNT) is a zinc protease that blocks neurotransmission by cleaving the synaptic protein vesicle-associated membrane protein/synaptobrevin. Although its intracellular catalytic activity is well established, the mechanism by which this neurotoxin interacts with the neuronal surface is not known. In this study, we characterize p15s, the first plasma membrane TeNT binding proteins and we show that they are glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored glycoproteins in nerve growth factor (NGF)-differentiated PC12 cells, spinal cord cells, and purified motor neurons. We identify p15 as neuronal Thy-1 in NGF-differentiated PC12 cells. Fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy measurements confirm the close association of the binding domain of TeNT and Thy-1 at the plasma membrane. We find that TeNT is recruited to detergent-insoluble lipid microdomains on the surface of neuronal cells. Finally, we show that cholesterol depletion affects a raft subpool and blocks the internalization and intracellular activity of the toxin. Our results indicate that TeNT interacts with target cells by binding to lipid rafts and that cholesterol is required for TeNT internalization and/or trafficking in neurons.

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