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Tetanus toxin and botulinum toxin a utilize unique mechanisms to enter neurons of the central nervous system

Blum, FC;Chen, C;Kroken, AR;Barbieri, JT;

Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) and tetanus neurotoxin (TeNT) are the most toxic proteins for humans. While BoNTs cause flaccid paralysis, TeNT causes spastic paralysis. Characterized BoNT serotypes enter neurons upon binding dual receptors, a ganglioside and a neuron-specific protein, either synaptic vesicle protein 2 (SV2) or synaptotagmin, while TeNT enters upon binding gangliosides as dual receptors. Recently, TeNT was reported to enter central nervous system (CNS) neurons upon synaptic vesicle cycling that was mediated by the direct binding to SV2, implying that TeNT and BoNT utilize common mechanisms to enter CNS neurons. This prompted an assessment of TeNT entry into CNS neurons, using the prototypic BoNT serotype A as a reference for SV2-mediated entry into synaptic vesicles, analyzing the heavy-chain receptor binding domain (HCR) of each toxin. Synaptic vesicle cycling stimulated the entry of HCR/A into neurons, while HCR/T entered neurons with similar levels of efficiency in depolarized and nondepolarized neurons. ImageJ analysis identified two populations of cell-associated HCR/T in synaptic vesicle cycling neurons, a major population which segregated from HCR/A and a minor population which colocalized with HCR/A. HCR/T did not inhibit HCR/A entry into neurons in competition experiments and did not bind SV2, the protein receptor for BoNT/A. Intoxication experiments showed that TeNT efficiently cleaved VAMP2 in depolarized neurons and neurons blocked for synaptic vesicle cycling. These experiments demonstrate that TeNT enters neurons by two pathways, one independent of stimulated synaptic vesicle cycling and one by synaptic vesicles independent of SV2, showing that TeNT and BoNT/A enter neurons by unique mechanisms.