Identification of a Botulinum Neurotoxin-like Toxin in a Commensal Strain of Enterococcus faecium

Sicai Zhang, Francois Lebreton, Michael J. Mansfield, Shin Ichiro Miyashita, Jie Zhang, Julia A. Schwartzman, Liang Tao, Geoffrey Masuyer, Markel Martínez-Carranza, Pål Stenmark, Michael S. Gilmore, Andrew C. Doxey, Min Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Citations (SciVal)


Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs), produced by various Clostridium strains, are a family of potent bacterial toxins and potential bioterrorism agents. Here we report that an Enterococcus faecium strain isolated from cow feces carries a BoNT-like toxin, designated BoNT/En. It cleaves both VAMP2 and SNAP-25, proteins that mediate synaptic vesicle exocytosis in neurons, at sites distinct from known BoNT cleavage sites on these two proteins. Comparative genomic analysis determines that the E. faecium strain carrying BoNT/En is a commensal type and that the BoNT/En gene is located within a typical BoNT gene cluster on a 206 kb putatively conjugative plasmid. Although the host species targeted by BoNT/En remains to be determined, these findings establish an extended member of BoNTs and demonstrate the capability of E. faecium, a commensal organism ubiquitous in humans and animals and a leading cause of hospital-acquired multi-drug-resistant (MDR) infections, to horizontally acquire, and possibly disseminate, a unique BoNT gene cluster. Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are potent toxins produced by diverse bacteria in the Clostridium genus. Zhang et al. report that a commensal strain of Enterococcus faecium carries a conjugative plasmid encoding a BoNT-like toxin gene. Thus, a commensal organism can acquire and possibly disseminate BoNT genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-176.e6
JournalCell Host and Microbe
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018


  • botulinum neurotoxin
  • botulinum toxin
  • botulism
  • E. faecium
  • enterococcus
  • enterococcus faecium
  • SNAP-25
  • toxin
  • VAMP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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