Tetanus Toxin in Dissociated Spinal Cord Cultures: Long‐Term Characterization of Form and Action

William H. Habig, Hans Bigalke, Gregory K. Bergey, Elaine A. Neale, M. Carolyn Hardegree, Phillip G. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Abstract: The clinical course of tetanus is notable, in addition to its often dramatic clinical presentation, by the long duration of the neuromuscular symptoms. Survivors may have tetanic manifestations for several weeks after the onset of the disease. In this article we correlate the duration of specific electrophysiologic effects produced by tetanus toxin with the degradation of cell‐associated toxin in primary cultures of mouse spinal cord neurons. From these studies we can conclude that the toxin has a half‐life of 5–6 days. Both the heavy and the light chains of tetanus toxin degrade at similar rates. Labeled toxin, visualized by radioautography, is associated with neuronal cell bodies and neurites, and its distribution is not altered during a 1‐week period following toxin exposure. Blockade of synaptic activity persists for weeks at the concentration of radiolabeled toxin used in these studies. This blockade of transmission is reversed as the toxin is degraded, suggesting that degradation of toxin may be a sufficient mechanism for recovery from tetanus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)930-937
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • Degradation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Neuronal culture
  • Radioautography
  • Tetanus toxin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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