Glossary of Terms!
A neurotoxin is a toxin that acts specifically on nerve cells (neurons), usually by interacting with membrane proteins such as ion channels. Some sources are more general, and define the effect of neurotoxins as occurring at nerve tissue. Bungarotoxin, which is considered a neurotoxin, has its effect at the motor end plate.
Many of the venoms and other toxins that organisms use in defense against predators are neurotoxins. A common effect is paralysis, which sets in very rapidly. The venom of bees, scorpions, pufferfish, spiders and snakes can contain many different toxins.
A potent neurotoxin such as batrachotoxin affects the nervous system by causing depolarization of nerve and muscle fibers due to increased sodium ion permeability of the excitable cell membrane.
A very potent neurotoxin is tetrodotoxin. This chemical acts to block sodium channels in neurons, preventing action potentials. This leads to paralysis and eventually death.
Another very potent neurotoxin is taipoxin. The toxin causes a gradual reduction to complete stop of evoked and spontaneous release of acetylcholine from motor nerve terminals. The victim dies from asphyxia caused by paralysis of the respiratory muscles.
Botulinum neurotoxins are the most potent natural toxins known. They are produced by various toxigenic strains of Clostridium botulinum and act as metalloproteinases that enter peripheral cholinergic nerve terminals and cleave proteins that are crucial components of the neuroexocytosis apparatus, causing a persistent but reversible inhibition of neurotransmitter release resulting in flaccid muscle paralysis.
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