Studies on the dissociation of botulinum neurotoxin type A complexes

Toxicon. 2011 Mar 15;57(4):555-65. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2010.12.019. Epub 2010 Dec 30.


The neurotoxins produced by the various strains of the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum naturally occur associated with complexing proteins which serve to protect the neurotoxins from the harsh environment of the mammalian gastrointestinal tract during bacterial invasion of the host. Three different complex species with the discrete sizes 19S (900 kDa, LL complex), 16S (500 kDa, L complex) and 12S (300 kDa, M complex) may be isolated from C. botulinum type A cultures. However, to affect their target cells these complexes must dissociate releasing the free 150 kDa neurotoxin. This study assesses the stability of these Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin serotype A (BoNT/A) complexes and identifies factors which influence their dissociation. The knowledge gained with purified toxin complexes was subsequently employed to analyze the presence of such complexes in the freeze or spray-dried commercial BoNT/A products Botox and Dysport in comparison to the complexing protein free product Xeomin. Purified 900 kDa and 500 kDa toxin complex preparations show a pH and time dependent release of the 150 kDa neurotoxin with a half-life of less than a minute at pH values >7.0. At pH values of 6.25 or less, the complexes are stable. Furthermore, dilution of concentrated 900 kDa complexes leads to dissociation into 500 kDa, neurotoxin containing complexes. Addition of sodium chloride as contained in isotonic saline leads to further disruption of these complexes resulting in the release of the free 150 kDa neurotoxin. Examination of the commercial botulinum neurotoxin products Botox and Dysport using the same analytical procedures leads to the same conclusion: the dilution, drying and reconstitution processes of these products lead to a complete dissociation of 900 kDa complexes and 85% or more of neurotoxin are present in free form.

Conclusion: BoNT A toxin complexes have evolved to quickly respond to specific environmental changes by efficient release of the neurotoxin. During pharmaceutical production and reconstitution of BoNT A products, the same principles effect the quantitative dissociation of 900 kDa complexes and release of free neurotoxin prior to injection into target tissues.

MeSH terms

  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry
  • Protein Multimerization*
  • Sodium Chloride / chemistry


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A
  • abobotulinumtoxinA
  • incobotulinumtoxinA