Letter

Nature 444, 1092-1095 (21 December 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05387; Received 20 August 2006; Accepted 30 October 2006; Published online 13 December 2006

Botulinum neurotoxin B recognizes its protein receptor with high affinity and specificity

Rongsheng Jin1,2, Andreas Rummel3, Thomas Binz4 & Axel T. Brunger1,2

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute,
  2. Departments of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Neurology and Neurological Science, Structural Biology, and Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA
  3. Institut für Toxikologie,
  4. Institut für Biochemie, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Carl-Neuberg-Strasse 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany

Correspondence to: Axel T. Brunger1,2 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to A.T.B. (Email: brunger@stanford.edu).

Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are produced by Clostridium botulinum and cause the neuroparalytic syndrome of botulism. With a lethal dose of 1 ng kg-1, they pose a biological hazard to humans and a serious potential bioweapon threat1. BoNTs bind with high specificity at neuromuscular junctions and they impair exocytosis of synaptic vesicles containing acetylcholine through specific proteolysis of SNAREs (soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive fusion protein attachment protein receptors), which constitute part of the synaptic vesicle fusion machinery2, 3. The molecular details of the toxin–cell recognition have been elusive. Here we report the structure of a BoNT in complex with its protein receptor: the receptor-binding domain of botulinum neurotoxin serotype B (BoNT/B) bound to the luminal domain of synaptotagmin II, determined at 2.15 Å resolution. On binding, a helix is induced in the luminal domain which binds to a saddle-shaped crevice on a distal tip of BoNT/B. This crevice is adjacent to the non-overlapping ganglioside-binding site of BoNT/B. Synaptotagmin II interacts with BoNT/B with nanomolar affinity, at both neutral and acidic endosomal pH. Biochemical and neuronal ex vivo studies of structure-based mutations indicate high specificity and affinity of the interaction, and high selectivity of BoNT/B among synaptotagmin I and II isoforms. Synergistic binding of both synaptotagmin and ganglioside imposes geometric restrictions on the initiation of BoNT/B translocation after endocytosis. Our results provide the basis for the rational development of preventive vaccines or inhibitors against these neurotoxins.

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