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J Neurosci. 2008 Apr 2;28(14):3689-96. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0375-08.2008.

Long-distance retrograde effects of botulinum neurotoxin A.

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Istituto di Neuroscienze, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, 56100 Pisa, Italy.


Botulinum neurotoxins (designated BoNT/A-BoNT/G) are bacterial enzymes that block neurotransmitter release by cleaving essential components of the vesicle fusion machinery. BoNT/A, which cleaves SNAP-25 (synaptosomal-associated protein of 25 kDa), is extensively exploited in clinical medicine to treat neuromuscular pathologies, facial wrinkles, and various types of pain. It is widely assumed that BoNT/A remains at the synaptic terminal and its effects are confined to the injection site. Here we demonstrate that catalytically active BoNT/A is retrogradely transported by central neurons and motoneurons and is then transcytosed to afferent synapses, in which it cleaves SNAP-25. SNAP-25 cleavage by BoNT/A was observed in the contralateral hemisphere after unilateral BoNT/A delivery to the hippocampus. Appearance of cleaved SNAP-25 resulted in blockade of hippocampal activity in the untreated hemisphere. Injections of BoNT/A into the optic tectum led to the appearance of BoNT/A-truncated SNAP-25 in synaptic terminals within the retina. Cleaved SNAP-25 also appeared in the facial nucleus after injection of the toxin into rat whisker muscles. Experiments excluded passive spread of the toxin and demonstrated axonal migration and neuronal transcytosis of BoNT/A. These findings reveal a novel pathway of BoNT/A trafficking in neurons and have important implications for the clinical uses of this neurotoxin.

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