Author(s): Park JB, Simpson LL, Park JB, Simpson LL
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Abstract Botulinum toxin is the etiologic agent responsible for the disease botulism, which is characterized by peripheral neuromuscular blockade. Botulism is ordinarily encountered as a form of oral poisoning. The toxin is absorbed from the lumen of the gut to reach the general circulation and is then distributed to peripheral cholinergic nerve endings. However, there is a widespread presumption that botulinum toxin can also act as an inhalation poison, which would require that it be absorbed from the airway. Experiments have been done to show that both pure toxin and progenitor toxin (a complex with auxiliary proteins) are inhalation poisons. Interestingly, the data indicate that auxiliary proteins are not necessary to protect the toxin or to facilitate its absorption. When studied on rat primary alveolar epithelial cells or on immortalized human pulmonary adenocarcinoma (Calu-3) cells, botulinum toxin displayed both specific binding and transcytosis. The rate of transport was greater in the apical-to-basolateral direction than in the basolateral-to-apical direction. Transcytosis was energy dependent, and it was blocked by serotype-specific antibody. The results demonstrated that the holotoxin was not essential for the process of binding and transcytosis. Both in vivo and in vitro experiments showed that the heavy-chain component of the toxin was transported across epithelial monolayers, which indicates that the structural determinants governing binding and transcytosis are found in this fragment. The heavy chain was not toxic, and therefore it was tested for utility as an inhalation vaccine against the parent molecule. This fragment was shown to evoke complete protection against toxin doses of at least 10(4) times the 50\% lethal dose.
This article was published in Infect Immun
and referenced in Journal of Forensic Research