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{{refimprove|date=September 2018}}{{about|the class of poisonous substances}}{{Use dmy dates|date=July 2012}}A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms;{{DorlandsDict|eight/000109718|toxin}}WEB,weblink toxin – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 13 December 2008, synthetic toxicants created by artificial processes are thus excluded. The term was first used by organic chemist Ludwig Brieger (1849–1919),BOOK,weblink Endotoxin in Health and Disease, Helmut, Brade, 1999, CRC Press, Google Books, 978-0824719449, derived from the word toxic.{{OEtymD|toxin}}Toxins can be small molecules, peptides, or proteins that are capable of causing disease on contact with or absorption by body tissues interacting with biological macromolecules such as enzymes or cellular receptors. Toxins vary greatly in their toxicity, ranging from usually minor (such as a bee sting) to almost immediately deadly (such as botulinum toxin).


Toxins are often distinguished from other chemical agents by their method of production—the word toxin does not specify method of delivery (compare with venom and the broader meaning of poison—all substances that can also cause disturbances to organisms). It simply means it is a biologically produced poison.According to an International Committee of the Red Cross review of the Biological Weapons Convention, "Toxins are poisonous products of organisms; unlike biological agents, they are inanimate and not capable of reproducing themselves", and "Since the signing of the Constitution, there have been no disputes among the parties regarding the definition of biological agents or toxins".WEB,weblink The Biological Weapons Convention – An overview, 13 December 2008, According to Title 18 of the United States Code, "... the term "toxin" means the toxic material or product of plants, animals, microorganisms (including, but not limited to, bacteria, viruses, fungi, rickettsiae or protozoa), or infectious substances, or a recombinant or synthesized molecule, whatever their origin and method of production..."WEB,weblink U.S. Code, 13 December 2008, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 21 July 2011, dmy-all, A rather informal terminology of individual toxins relates them to the anatomical location where their effects are most notable: On a broader scale, toxins may be classified as either exotoxins, being excreted by an organism, or endotoxins, that are released mainly when bacteria are lysed.


The term "biotoxin" is sometimes used to explicitly confirm the biological origin.WEB,weblink biotoxin – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 13 December 2008, {{DorlandsDict|one/000012874|biotoxin}} Biotoxins can be further classified, for example, as fungal biotoxins, microbial toxins, plant biotoxins, or animal biotoxins.Toxins produced by microorganisms are important virulence determinants responsible for microbial pathogenicity and/or evasion of the host immune response.BOOK, Proft T, 2009, Microbial Toxins: Current Research and Future Trends, Caister Academic Press, 978-1-904455-44-8, Biotoxins vary greatly in purpose and mechanism, and can be highly complex (the venom of the cone snail contains dozens of small proteins, each targeting a specific nerve channel or receptor), or relatively small protein.Biotoxins in nature have two primary functions: Some of the more well known types of biotoxins include:

Environmental toxins

{{See also|Environmental toxicology}}The term "environmental toxin" can sometimes explicitly include synthetic contaminantsJOURNAL, Grigg J, Environmental toxins; their impact on children's health, Arch. Dis. Child., 89, 3, 244–50, March 2004, 14977703, 1719840, 10.1136/adc.2002.022202, such as industrial pollutants and other artificially made toxic substances. As this contradicts most formal definitions of the term "toxin", it is important to confirm what the researcher means when encountering the term outside of microbiological contexts.Environmental toxins from food chains that may be dangerous to human health include:
  • Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP)JOURNAL, Vale C, Alfonso A, Vieytes MR, Romarís XM, Arévalo F, Botana AM, Botana LM, In vitro and in vivo evaluation of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxin potency and the influence of the pH of extraction, Anal. Chem., 80, 5, 1770–76, March 2008, 18232710, 10.1021/ac7022266, JOURNAL, Oikawa H, Fujita T, Saito K, Satomi M, Yano Y, Difference in the level of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxin accumulation between the crabs Telmessus acutidens and Charybdis japonica collected in Onahama, Fukushima Prefecture, Fisheries Science, 73, 2, 395–403, 2008, 10.1111/j.1444-2906.2007.01347.x, JOURNAL, Abouabdellah R, Taleb H, Bennouna A, Erler K, Chafik A, Moukrim A, Paralytic shellfish poisoning toxin profile of mussels Perna perna from southern Atlantic coasts of Morocco, Toxicon, 51, 5, 780–86, April 2008, 18237757, 10.1016/j.toxicon.2007.12.004,
  • Amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP)JOURNAL, Wang L, Liang XF, Zhang WB, Mai KS, Huang Y, Shen D, Amnesic shellfish poisoning toxin stimulates the transcription of CYP1A possibly through AHR and ARNT in the liver of red sea bream Pagrus major, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 58, 11, 1643–48, November 2009, 19665739, 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.07.004, JOURNAL, Wang L, Vaquero E, Leão JM, Gogo-Martínez A, Rodríguez Vázquez JA, Optimization of conditions for the liquid chromatographic-electrospray lonization-mass spectrometric analysis of amnesic shellfish poisoning toxins, Chromatographia, 53, 1, S231–35, 2001, 10.1007/BF02490333,
  • Diarrheal shellfish poisoning (DSP)JOURNAL, Mouratidou T, Kaniou-Grigoriadou I, Samara C, Kouimtzis T, Detection of the marine toxin okadaic acid in mussels during a diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) episode in Thermaikos Gulf, Greece, using biological, chemical and immunological methods, Sci. Total Environ., 366, 2–3, 894–904, August 2006, 16815531, 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2005.03.002, 2006ScTEn.366..894M, JOURNAL, Doucet E, Ross NN, Quilliam MA, Enzymatic hydrolysis of esterified diarrhetic shellfish poisoning toxins and pectenotoxins, Anal Bioanal Chem, 389, 1, 335–42, September 2007, 17661021, 10.1007/s00216-007-1489-3,
  • Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP)JOURNAL, Poli MA, Musser SM, Dickey RW, Eilers PP, Hall S, Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning and brevetoxin metabolites: a case study from Florida, Toxicon, 38, 7, 981–93, July 2000, 10728835, 10.1016/S0041-0101(99)00191-9,weblink JOURNAL, Morohashi A, Satake M, Murata K, Naoki H, Kaspar HF, Yasumoto T, Brevetoxin B3, a new brevetoxin nalog isolated from the greenshell mussel perna canaliculus involved in neurotoxic shellfish poisoning in new zealand, Tetrahedron Letters, 36, 49, 8995–98, 1995, 10.1016/0040-4039(95)01969-O, JOURNAL, Morohashi A, Satake M, Naoki H, Kaspar HF, Oshima Y, Yasumoto T, Brevetoxin B4 isolated from greenshell mussels Perna canaliculus, the major toxin involved in neurotoxic shellfish poisoning in New Zealand, Nat. Toxins, 7, 2, 45–48, 1999, 10495465, 10.1002/(SICI)1522-7189(199903/04)7:23.0.CO;2-H,

Finding information about toxins

The Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program (TEHIP)WEB,weblink Environmental Health and Toxicology Information ? National Library of Medicine,, at the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) maintains a comprehensive toxicology and environmental health web site that includes access to toxins-related resources produced by TEHIP and by other government agencies and organizations. This web site includes links to databases, bibliographies, tutorials, and other scientific and consumer-oriented resources. TEHIP also is responsible for the Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET),WEB,weblink TOXNET,, an integrated system of toxicology and environmental health databases that are available free of charge on the web.TOXMAP is a Geographic Information System (GIS) that is part of TOXNET. TOXMAP uses maps of the United States to help users visually explore data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory and Superfund Basic Research Programs.

Computational resources for prediction of toxic peptides and proteins

One of the bottlenecks in peptide/protein-based therapy is their toxicity. Recently, in silico models for predicting toxicity of peptides and proteins, developed by Gajendra Pal Singh Raghava's group,JOURNAL, Gupta S, Kapoor P, Chaudhary K, Gautam A, Kumar R, Raghava GP, In silico approach for predicting toxicity of peptides and proteins, PLoS ONE, 8, 9, e73957, 2013, 24058508, 3772798, 10.1371/journal.pone.0073957, 2013PLoSO...873957G, predict toxicity with reasonably good accuracy. The prediction models are based on machine learning technique and quantitative matrix using various properties of peptides. The prediction tool is freely accessible to public in the form of web server.WEB,weblink ToxinPred,,

Misuse of the term

When used non-technically, the term "toxin" is often applied to any toxic substance, even though the term toxicant would be more appropriate. Toxic substances not directly of biological origin are also termed poisons and many non-technical and lifestyle journalists follow this usage to refer to toxic substances in general.{{clarify|date=August 2015}}In the context of quackery and alternative medicine, the term "toxin" is used to refer to any substance alleged to cause ill health. This could range from trace amounts of potentially dangerous pesticides, to supposedly harmful substances produced in the body by intestinal fermentation (auto-intoxication), to food ingredients such as table sugar, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and aspartame.WEB,weblink "Detoxification" Schemes and Scams, Quackwatch,

See also

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External links

{{Authority control}}{{Toxins}}{{Toxicology}}

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