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Lab Reports
April 4, 2012

Toxin’s Gut Protection

JAMA. 2012;307(13):1357. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.372

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[6071]: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.

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