Botulinum neurotoxins consist of a metalloprotease linked via a conserved interchain disulfide bond to a heavy chain responsible for neurospecific binding and translocation of the enzymatic domain in the nerve terminal cytosol. The metalloprotease activity is enabled upon disulfide reduction and causes neuroparalysis by cleaving the SNARE proteins. Here, we show that the thioredoxin reductase-thioredoxin protein disulfide-reducing system is present on synaptic vesicles and that it is functional and responsible for the reduction of the interchain disulfide of botulinum neurotoxin serotypes A, C, and E. Specific inhibitors of thioredoxin reductase or thioredoxin prevent intoxication of cultured neurons in a dose-dependent manner and are also very effective inhibitors of the paralysis of the neuromuscular junction. We found that this group of inhibitors of botulinum neurotoxins is very effective in vivo. Most of them are nontoxic and are good candidates as preventive and therapeutic drugs for human botulism.
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