Long-term effects of botulinum toxin on neuromuscular function

Christiane G. Frick, Martina Richtsfeld, Nita D. Sahani, Masao Kaneki, Manfred Blobner, J. A.Jeevendra Martyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Recent reports indicate increased incidence of Clostridium botulinum infections, particularly among drug abusers and tissue allograft recipients. Botulinum toxin also has potential application in biochemical warfare. The neurotoxin-induced paralysis often requires mechanical ventilation with and without muscle relaxants. The authors investigated the long-term effects of botulinum toxin on muscle function, expression of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), and their interaction with muscle relaxant, atracurium. METHODS: Rats (n = 30) were injected with varying doses (0.625, 2.5, and 10 U) of botulinum toxin into the tibialis muscle. Control animals (n = 9) received an equivalent volume of saline. At 128 days after injection, neuromuscular function, pharmacodynamics of atracurium, and nAChRs were evaluated. RESULTS: Nerve-evoked tensions, including tetanic tension and muscle mass, were decreased on the toxin-injected side in a dose-dependent manner relative to saline-injected controls as well as the contralateral side. Specific muscle tension and specific tetanic muscle tension (tensions/muscle mass) were not reduced. The ED10 of atracurium was reduced, the ED50 was unchanged, and the ED90 was increased in the highest (10-U) dose of toxin group. The atracurium plasma concentration to maintain a steady state 50% paralysis was significantly reduced in the 10-U toxin group. The nAChR concentrations in the tibialis muscle were significantly increased in a dose-dependent manner in all experimental groups. CONCLUSION: Botulinum toxin causes dose-dependent long-term neuromuscular changes. The loss of tension generating capacity is almost exclusively related to muscle atrophy, because the specific tension did not change. The decreased ED10, unaltered ED50, and increased ED90 to atracurium suggest its interactions with different isoforms of receptors having varying sensitivity to atracurium. The absence of fade, despite the persistent botulinum toxin-induced denervation (increased nAChRs), suggests that the up-regulated nAChRs may have compensated for the prejunctional effects of botulinum toxin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1139-1146
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007


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