Scientists help identify possible botulism blocker

October 11, 2013

U.S. and German scientists have decoded a key molecular gateway for the toxin that causes botulism, pointing the way to treatments that can keep the food-borne poison out of the bloodstream.

Study leaders Rongsheng Jin, associate professor of & biophysics at UC Irvine, and Andreas Rummel of the Institute for Toxicology at Germany's Hannover Medical School created a three-dimensional crystal model of a complex protein compound in the botulinum neurotoxin. This compound binds to the inner lining of the small intestine and allows passage of the toxin into the .

The 3-D structure – shaped much like the Apollo lunar landing module – let the researchers identify places on the surface of the complex protein that enable it to dock with carbohydrates located on the small intestine's interior wall. In tests on mice, they found that certain inhibitor molecules blocked the compound from connecting to these sites, which prevented the toxin from entering the bloodstream.

Botulinum neurotoxins are produced by Clostridium botulinum and cause the possibly fatal disease botulism, which impedes nerve cells' ability to communicate with muscles and can lead to paralysis and respiratory failure. The has also been identified as a potential biological weapon against a civilian population.

"Currently, there is no efficient countermeasure for this toxin in case of a large outbreak of botulism," Jin said. "Our discovery provides a vital first step toward a pharmaceutical intervention at an early point that can limit the toxin's fatal attack on the human body."

Study results appear online in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens.

Jin added that his work opens the door to further development of preventive treatments for botulism. At the same time, the molecular gateway for the lethal could be exploited for alternative applications, such as the oral delivery of protein-based therapeutics.

Explore further: Disarming the botulinum neurotoxin

More information: www.plospathogens.org/article/ … journal.ppat.1003690

Related Stories

Disarming the botulinum neurotoxin

February 23, 2012
Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) and the Medical School of Hannover in Germany recently discovered how the botulinum neurotoxin, a potential bioterrorism agent, survives the hostile ...

Recommended for you

Researchers report new system to study chronic hepatitis B

July 25, 2017
Scientists from Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology have successfully tested a cell-culture system that will allow researchers to perform laboratory-based studies of long-term hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections. ...

Research examines lung cell turnover as risk factor and target for treatment of influenza pneumonia

July 24, 2017
Influenza is a recurring global health threat that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths every year, most due to influenza pneumonia, or viral pneumonia. Infection with ...

Scientists propose novel therapy to lessen risk of obesity-linked disease

July 24, 2017
With obesity related illnesses a global pandemic, researchers propose in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using a blood thinner to target molecular drivers of chronic metabolic inflammation in people eating high-fat ...

Raccoon roundworm—a hidden human parasite?

July 24, 2017
The raccoon that topples your trashcan and pillages your garden may leave more than just a mess. More likely than not, it also contaminates your yard with parasites—most notably, raccoon roundworms (Baylisascaris procyonis).

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.