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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1999 Feb 28;354(1381):259-68.

Tetanus and botulinum neurotoxins: mechanism of action and therapeutic uses.

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Centro CNR Biomembrane, Università di Padova, Italy.


The clostridial neurotoxins responsible for tetanus and botulism are proteins consisting of three domains endowed with different functions: neurospecific binding, membrane translocation and proteolysis for specific components of the neuroexocytosis apparatus. Tetanus neurotoxin (TeNT) binds to the presynaptic membrane of the neuromuscular junction, is internalized and transported retroaxonally to the spinal cord. The spastic paralysis induced by the toxin is due to the blockade of neurotransmitter release from spinal inhibitory interneurons. In contrast, the seven serotypes of botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) act at the periphery by inducing a flaccid paralysis due to the inhibition of acetylcholine release at the neuromuscular junction. TeNT and BoNT serotypes B, D, F and G cleave specifically at single but different peptide bonds, of the vesicle associated membrane protein (VAMP) synaptobrevin, a membrane protein of small synaptic vesicles (SSVs). BoNT types A, C and E cleave SNAP-25 at different sites located within the carboxyl-terminus, while BoNT type C additionally cleaves syntaxin. The remarkable specificity of BoNTs is exploited in the treatment of human diseases characterized by a hyperfunction of cholinergic terminals.

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