pp 1-23 | Cite as

The Structure and Classification of Botulinum Toxins

  • Min DongEmail author
  • Pål StenmarkEmail author
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series


Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are a family of bacterial protein toxins produced by various Clostridium species. They are traditionally classified into seven major serotypes (BoNT/A-G). Recent progress in sequencing microbial genomes has led to an ever-growing number of subtypes, chimeric toxins, BoNT-like toxins, and remotely related BoNT homologs, constituting an expanding BoNT superfamily. Recent structural studies of BoNTs, BoNT progenitor toxin complexes, tetanus neurotoxin (TeNT), toxin-receptor complexes, and toxin-substrate complexes have provided mechanistic understandings of toxin functions and the molecular basis for their variations. The growing BoNT superfamily of toxins present a natural repertoire that can be explored to develop novel therapeutic toxins, and the structural understanding of their variations provides a knowledge basis for engineering toxins to improve therapeutic efficacy and expand their clinical applications.


Bacterial toxins BoNT BoNT-like toxins Botox Botulinum neurotoxin Botulinum toxin Tetanus neurotoxin X-ray crystal structure 



We thank Jonathan Davies for preparing all figures and for valuable discussions during the preparation of this chapter. This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Cancer Society to P.S. and by grants from NIH (R01NS080833, R01AI132387, R01AI139087, and R21NS106159), Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA, grant number W911NF-17-2-0089), and the Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to M.D.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of UrologyBoston Children’s HospitalBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of MicrobiologyHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of SurgeryHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biochemistry and BiophysicsStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  5. 5.Department of Experimental Medical ScienceLund UniversityLundSweden

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