Scientists help to map toxin genome
Scientists from the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, and the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton, Cambridge, have contributed to mapping the genome of the organism behind the world’s most lethal toxin, botulin.This toxin is the one real weapon in the genome of Clostridium botulinum and less than 2kg is enough to kill every person on the planet.
Occasionally it gets into a living animal, via contaminated food or open wounds, leading to infant botulism or wound botulism, both of which are serious human infections.
The host can be quickly overpowered and, in some cases, killed by the toxin, and C. botulinum has a new food source.
Very small amounts of the same toxin are also used in medical treatments, one of which is known as Botox.
Genome sequences can tell a lot about the biology of the organism, but research into clostridia has been hampered by the lack of a good genetic system.
Professor Nigel Minton, Professor of Applied Molecular Microbiology at the University of Nottingham – one of the participating centres – has developed new methods to knock out genes in clostridia.
“Even after decades of research, only a handful of mutants had been made in clostridia, and none in C. botulinum,” Professor Minton explains.
“We have developed a highly efficient system, the ClosTron, with which we have, in a few months, knocked out over 30 genes in four different clostridial species, including eight in C. botulinum.
“The availability of this tool should revolutionise functional genomic studies in clostridia.”