Internalization and retrograde axonal trafficking of tetanus toxin in motor neurons and trans-synaptic propagation at central synapses exceed those of its C-terminal-binding fragments
Tetanus Toxin Fragment C Binds to a Protein Present in Neuronal Cell Lines and Motoneurons Tetanus neurotoxin is one of the most powerful protein toxins known, acting in vivo at femtomolar doses. Two main factors determine its high potency: a protease activity restricted to a single intracellular substrate and its absolute neurospecificity. Whereas the enzymatic properties of tetanus toxin have been thoroughly defined, the nature of its neuronal receptor(s) and their involvement in the intracellular trafficking of tetanus toxin are poorly understood. Using binding and crosslinking experiments, we report here on the characterisation of an N-glycosylated 15-kDa interacting protein, which behaves as an integral membrane protein. This putative receptor specifically interacts with the binding domain (fragment C) of tetanus toxin and not with several related botulinum neurotoxins in spinal cord motoneurons and neuronal-like cell lines. Sialic acid-specific lectins antagonise the binding of tetanus toxin to the cell surface and to the 15-kDa protein, supporting the central role of sialic acid residues in the recognition process. Altogether, these results indicate the existence of a neuronal protein receptor for tetanus toxin whose identification is likely to constitute a key step in the analysis of the molecular machinery involved in the toxin internalisation and retrograde transport.