Scientists help identify possible botulism blocker

October 11, 2013, University of California, Irvine

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

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

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.