Editors' ChoiceNeurobiology

Lipids and Neurotoxins

Science's STKE  13 Dec 2005:
Vol. 2005, Issue 314, pp. tw451
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3142005tw451

The venom of certain snakes includes neurotoxins capable of paralyzing their victims. Upon intoxication, snake presynaptic phospholipase A2 neurotoxins (SPANs) cause motor nerve terminals in the neuromuscular junction to enlarge and induce exocytosis of neurotransmitters from synaptic vesicles. Rigoni et al. (see the Perspective by Zimmerberg and Chernomordik) now find that a mixture of lysophospholipids and fatty acids, which are released by SPANs acting on phospholipids, closely mimics all of the biological effects of SPANs. Thus, at the presynaptic membrane, lysophospholipids and fatty acids help to generate a membrane conformation that promotes vesicle exocytosis and also inhibits synaptic vesicle retrieval.

M. Rigoni, P. Caccin, S. Gschmeissner, G. Koster, A. D. Postle, O. Rossetto, G. Schiavo, C. Montecucco, Equivalent effects of snake PLA2 neurotoxins and lysophospholipid-fatty acid mixtures. Science 310, 1678-1680 (2005). [Abstract] [Full Text]

J. Zimmerberg, L. V. Chernomordik, Synaptic membranes bend to the will of a neurotoxin. Science 310, 1626-1627 (2005). [Summary] [Full Text]