New research provides a snapshot of a shield that botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) uses to protect itself from the highly acidic conditions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract so it can safely enter the bloodstream (Gu S et al. Science. 2012;335:977-981).
Investigators at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, in La Jolla,Calif, led a team that generated the crystal structure of an inactive mutant BoNT (with a structure that is essentially identical to that of wild-type BoNT) in complexes with the BoNT shield, which consists of several nontoxic neurotoxin-associated proteins. The crystal structure highlights key BoNT pH-sensing residues that regulate the assembly of these complexes.
Hampton T. Toxin’s Gut Protection. JAMA. 2012;307(13):1357. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.372