When Clostridium tetani was discovered and identified as a Gram-positive anaerobic bacterium of the genus Clostridium, the possibility of turning its toxin into a valuable biological carrier to ameliorate neurodegenerative processes was inconceivable. However, the non-toxic carboxy-terminal fragment of the tetanus toxin heavy chain (fragment C) can be retrogradely transported to the central nervous system; therefore, fragment C has been used as a valuable biological carrier of neurotrophic factors to ameliorate neurodegenerative processes. More recently, the neuroprotective properties of fragment C have also been described in vitro and in vivo, involving the activation of Akt kinase and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling cascades through neurotrophin tyrosine kinase (Trk) receptors. Although the precise mechanism of the molecular internalization of fragment C in neuronal cells remains unknown, fragment C could be internalized and translocated into the neuronal cytosol through a clathrin-mediated pathway dependent on proteins, such as dynamin and AP-2. In this review, the origins, molecular properties and possible signaling pathways of fragment C are reviewed to understand the biochemical characteristics of its intracellular and synaptic transport.
Keywords: Trk receptors; clathrin-mediated pathway; dynamin; fragment C; neurotrophin; tetanus toxin.