Cell entry strategy of clostridial neurotoxins

J Neurochem. 2009 Jun;109(6):1584-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2009.06093.x. Epub 2009 Apr 28.


Tetanus neurotoxin and botulinum neurotoxins are the causative agents of tetanus and botulism. They block the release of neurotransmitters from synaptic vesicles in susceptible animals and man and act in nanogram quantities because of their ability to specifically attack motoneurons. They developed an ingenious strategy to enter neurons. This involves a concentration step via complex polysialo gangliosides at the plasma membrane and the uptake and ride in recycling synaptic vesicles initiated by binding to a specific protein receptor. Finally, the neurotoxins shut down the synaptic vesicle cycle, which they had misused before to enter their target cells, via specific cleavage of protein core components of the cellular membrane fusion machinery. The uptake of four out of seven known botulinum neurotoxins into synaptic vesicles has been demonstrated to rely on binding to intravesicular segments of the synaptic vesicle proteins synaptotagmin or synaptic vesicle protein 2. This review summarizes the present knowledge about the cell receptor molecules and the mode of toxin-receptor interaction that enables the toxins' sophisticated access to their site of action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Botulinum Toxins / chemistry
  • Botulinum Toxins / metabolism
  • Botulinum Toxins / pharmacology
  • Endocytosis / drug effects*
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • Gangliosides / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Protein Binding / drug effects
  • Synaptic Vesicles / drug effects*
  • Tetanus Toxin / chemistry
  • Tetanus Toxin / metabolism
  • Tetanus Toxin / pharmacology*


  • Gangliosides
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Tetanus Toxin
  • Botulinum Toxins