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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2009 Jul;330(1):352-8. doi: 10.1124/jpet.108.147744. Epub 2009 Apr 16.

Neuritogenic actions of botulinum neurotoxin A on cultured motor neurons.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are extremely potent neuromuscular poisons that act through soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE) protein cleavage to inhibit neurotransmitter release. The ability of BoNT serotype A (BoNT/A) to eliminate localized transmitter release at extremely low doses is well characterized. In the current study, we investigated the less understood characteristic of BoNT/A to induce nerve outgrowth, sometimes referred to as sprouting. This phenomenon is generally considered a secondary response to the paralytic actions of BoNT/A, and other potential factors that may initiate this sprouting have not been investigated. Alternatively, we hypothesized that BoNT/A induces sprouting through presynaptic receptor activation that is independent of its known intracellular actions on the soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment receptor (SNARE) synaptosomal associated protein of 25 kDa (SNAP-25). To test this, the effects of BoNT/A application on neurite outgrowth were examined using primary cultures enriched with motor neurons isolated from embryonic mouse spinal cord. In this system, BoNT/A potently stimulated neuritogenesis at concentrations as low as 0.01 nM. The neuritogenic effects of BoNT/A exposure were concentration dependent and antagonized by Triticum vulgaris lectin, a known competitive antagonist of BoNT. Similar results were observed with the isolated BoNT/A binding domain, revealing that neuritogenesis could be initiated solely by the binding actions of BoNT/A. In addition, the presence or absence of SNAP-25 cleavage by BoNT/A was not a determinant factor in BoNT/A-induced neuritogenesis. Collectively, these results suggest that binding of BoNT/A to the motor neuronal membrane activates neuritogenesis through as yet undetermined intracellular pathway(s), independent of its known action on vesicular release.

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