Detection of botulinum neurotoxin serotype A, B, and F proteolytic activity in complex matrices with picomolar to femtomolar sensitivity

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Nov;78(21):7687-97. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01664-12. Epub 2012 Aug 24.


Rapid, high-throughput assays that detect and quantify botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) activity in diverse matrices are required for environmental, clinical, pharmaceutical, and food testing. The current standard, the mouse bioassay, is sensitive but is low in throughput and precision. In this study, we present three biochemical assays for the detection and quantification of BoNT serotype A, B, and F proteolytic activities in complex matrices that offer picomolar to femtomolar sensitivity with small assay volumes and total assay times of less than 24 h. These assays consist of magnetic beads conjugated with BoNT serotype-specific antibodies that are used to purify BoNT from complex matrices before the quantification of bound BoNT proteolytic activity using the previously described BoTest reporter substrates. The matrices tested include human serum, whole milk, carrot juice, and baby food, as well as buffers containing common pharmaceutical excipients. The limits of detection were below 1 pM for BoNT/A and BoNT/F and below 10 pM for BoNT/B in most tested matrices using 200-μl samples and as low as 10 fM for BoNT/A with an increased sample volume. Together, these data describe rapid, robust, and high-throughput assays for BoNT detection that are compatible with a wide range of matrices.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / immunology*
  • Biological Assay
  • Botulinum Toxins / analysis*
  • Botulinum Toxins / immunology
  • Botulinum Toxins / metabolism
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / analysis*
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / immunology
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / metabolism
  • Clostridium botulinum
  • Daucus carota
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays*
  • Humans
  • Immunomagnetic Separation
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula
  • Limit of Detection
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles
  • Milk
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Serum


  • Antibodies
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles
  • rimabotulinumtoxinB
  • Botulinum Toxins
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A
  • botulinum toxin type F