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Botulinum neurotoxin dose-dependently inhibits release of neurosecretory vesicle-targeted luciferase from neuronal cells

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Andrea Pathe-Neuschäfer-Rube1, Frank Neuschäfer-Rube1, Lara Genz1,2 and Gerhard P. Püschel1
1 University of Potsdam, Institute of Nutritional Science, Department of Nutritional Biochemistry, Nuthetal, Germany;
2 Current Address: University Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health, Institute of Cell Biology, Germany;


Botulinum toxin is a bacterial toxin that inhibits neurotransmitter release from neurons and thereby causes a flaccid paralysis. It is used as drug to treat a number of serious ailments and, more frequently, for aesthetic medical interventions. Botulinum toxin for pharmacological applications is isolated from bacterial cultures. Due to partial denaturation of the protein, the specific activity of these preparations shows large variations. Because of its extreme potential toxicity, pharmacological preparations must be carefully tested for their activity. For the current gold standard, the mouse lethality assay, several hundred thousand mice are killed per year. Alternative methods have been developed that suffer from one or more of the following deficits: In vitro enzyme assays test only the activity of the catalytic subunit of the toxin. Enzymatic and cell based immunological assays are specific for just one of the different serotypes. The current study takes a completely different approach that overcomes these limitations: Neuronal cell lines were stably transfected with plasmids coding for luciferases of different species, which were N-terminally tagged with leader sequences that redirect the luciferase into neuro-secretory vesicles. From these vesicles, luciferases were released upon depolarization of the cells. The depolarization-dependent release was efficiently inhibited by botulinum toxin in a concentration range (1 to 100 pM) that is used in pharmacological preparations. The new assay might thus be an alternative to the mouse lethality assay and the immunological assays already in use.


Keywords: Botulinum toxin, cell-based assay, mouse lethality assay



ALTEX 32(4), 297-306

DOI: 10.14573/altex.1503061

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