CAROL & MIKE WERNER / VISUALS UNLIMITED, INC. / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CAROL & MIKE WERNER / VISUALS UNLIMITED, INC. / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Biomedical illustration of the effect of botulism on the nervous system. The primary role of SNARE (Soluble NSF Attachment Protein Receptors) proteins is to mediate vesicle fusion with the presynaptic membrane. Synaptic vesicles fuse to the presynaptic membrane of a neuron where they release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine binds to receptors in a muscle cell stimulating action. These SNAREs are the targets of the bacterial neurotoxins responsible for botulism and tetanus. By preventing the vesicle from being bound to the membrane, botulinum toxins block the release of acetylcholine, leading to flaccid muscles, paralysis, and nerve destruction followed by difficulty in breathing and swallowing and death. Labeled.
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