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PLoS One. 2015 Apr 8;10(4):e0120840. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120840. eCollection 2015.

Botulinum neurotoxin type A induces TLR2-mediated inflammatory responses in macrophages.

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Division of High-risk Pathogen Research, Center for Infectious Diseases, Korea National Institute of Health, Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cheongju, Korea.


Botulinum neurotoxin type A (BoNT/A) is the most potent protein toxin and causes fatal flaccid muscle paralysis by blocking neurotransmission. Application of BoNT/A has been extended to the fields of therapeutics and biodefense. Nevertheless, the global response of host immune cells to authentic BoNT/A has not been reported. Employing microarray analysis, we performed global transcriptional profiling of RAW264.7 cells, a murine alveolar macrophage cell line. We identified 70 genes that were modulated following 1 nM BoNT/A treatment. The altered genes were mainly involved in signal transduction, immunity and defense, protein metabolism and modification, neuronal activities, intracellular protein trafficking, and muscle contraction. Microarray data were validated with real-time RT-PCR for seven selected genes including tlr2, tnf, inos, ccl4, slpi, stx11, and irg1. Proinflammatory mediators such as nitric oxide (NO) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) were induced in a dose-dependent manner in BoNT/A-stimulated RAW264.7 cells. Increased expression of these factors was inhibited by monoclonal anti-Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) and inhibitors specific to intracellular proteins such as c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). BoNT/A also suppressed lipopolysaccharide-induced NO and TNFα production from RAW264.7 macrophages at the transcription level by blocking activation of JNK, ERK, and p38 MAPK. As confirmed by TLR2-/- knock out experiments, these results suggest that BoNT/A induces global gene expression changes in host immune cells and that host responses to BoNT/A proceed through a TLR2-dependent pathway, which is modulated by JNK, ERK, and p38 MAPK.

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