Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs; serotypes A-G) are metalloproteases, which cleave and inactivate cellular proteins essential for neurotransmitter release. In bacterial cultures, BoNTs are secreted as a complex of the neurotoxin and a group of neurotoxin associated proteins (NAPs). Under physiological condition (pH 7.4), this complex is believed to be dissociated to separate the neurotoxin from NAPs. BoNT consists of a 50 kDa light (L) chain (LC or catalytic domain) and a 100 kDa heavy (H) chain (or HC) linked through a disulfide bond and other non-covalent interactions. The cell intoxication involves three major steps; binding, membrane translocation and inhibition of neurotransmitter release. The last step of intoxication, endopeptidase activity, is very unique and specific that can be used for detection of the complex and isolated forms of the toxin. A fluorescent tag-labeled synthetic peptide (SNAPtide) derived from a segment of SNAP-25, an intracellular substrate of BoNT/A, is used to detect and assay the endopeptidase activity of BoNT/A. The detection of the signal is based on the change in the fluorescence energy transfer after selective cleavage of the peptide by the BoNT/A.
In this report, we demonstrate that SNAPtide as a commonly used substrate widely differ in reaction with BoNT/A complex, BoNT/A, and BoNT/A light chain. These findings have implications for assays used in detection, and in screening potential inhibitors.