Snake venom neurotoxins with phospholipase A₂ affect the neuromuscular junction with three distinct phases. There is a transient decrease in twitch height, followed by a facilitatory phase and finally a progressive blockade. It has been suggested that the initial phase is a direct consequence of the binding of the toxins to nerve terminals. This study was designed to determine whether the initial phase is present under conditions that would reduce the enzyme activity of the toxins. At 27 °C, β-bungarotoxin and taipoxin exhibited all three phases, i.e. 5-6 min after exposure to the preparation, twitch height was significantly reduced (P <0.5) to 50 ± 4% and 64 ± 9% of control respectively. This was followed by facilitation and subsequent blockade. However, at 20 °C, neither toxin exhibited the first phase while the second phase, although reduced, clearly occurred and the blocking activity of these toxins always appeared. The data clearly demonstrate that the initial fall is temperature dependent as reducing the temperature from 27 °C to 20 °C blocks the first phase. As the second phase still occurs the toxins must have bound to their target. Therefore, the first phase cannot simply be a toxin binding step.
- neuromuscular junction