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Anal Chem. 2012 Jun 5;84(11):4652-8. doi: 10.1021/ac3006439. Epub 2012 May 21.

Subtyping botulinum neurotoxins by sequential multiple endoproteases in-gel digestion coupled with mass spectrometry.

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  • 1National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia 30341, United States.


Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) is one of the most toxic substances known. BoNT is classified into seven distinct serotypes labeled A-G. Among individual serotypes, researchers have identified subtypes based on amino acid variability within a serotype and toxin variants with minor amino acid sequence differences within a subtype. BoNT subtype identification is valuable for tracing and tracking bacterial pathogens. A proteomics approach is useful for BoNT subtyping since botulism is caused by botulinum neurotoxin and does not require the presence of the bacteria or its DNA. Enzymatic digestion and peptide identification using tandem mass spectrometry determines toxin protein sequences. However, with the conventional one-step digestion method, producing sufficient numbers of detectable peptides to cover the entire protein sequence is difficult, and incomplete sequence coverage results in uncertainty in distinguishing BoNT subtypes and toxin variants because of high sequence similarity. We report here a method of multiple enzymes and sequential in-gel digestion (MESID) to characterize the BoNT protein sequence. Complementary peptide detection from toxin digestions has yielded near-complete sequence coverage for all seven BoNT serotypes. Application of the method to a BoNT-contaminated carrot juice sample resulted in the identification of 98.4% protein sequence which led to a confident determination of the toxin subtype.

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