Special Issue "Ricin Toxin"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2011)
Prof. Dr. Bruce Magun (Website)
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Oregon Health and Science University, 3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Rd., Portland, OR 97239, USA
Fax: +1 503 494 4253
Prof. Dr. Jon D. Robertus (Website)
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, 1 University Station A5300, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712, USA
The toxicity of castor plant seeds has been known since antiquity; today we are aware that the toxic agent is a heterodimeric protein toxin called ricin. The exquisite potency of this protein has been of great interest to the general public. Ricin was used by the KGB to assassinate the dissident Georgi Markov in the famous “umbrella tip” incident; this story has featured in many news stories, documentaries, and several fictional adaptations. The scientific community shares this fascination with ricin. What is the secret behind its unusual potency, what biology can we learn from its analysis, can we use ricin as a tool for our benefit? Scientific investigation of ricin encompasses many sub disciplines. These include structural and mechanistic investigations of an enzyme that has evolved to catalytic perfection in its depurination of host ribosomes. The toxin subverts cell uptake and internal trafficking mechanisms to reach the cytoplasm and its investigation has shed light on those fields of research. Because of its ease of purification and toxicity, ricin has been implicated as a terrorist weapon. This has led to work on vaccines and chemical antidotes. There has also been interest in harnessing ricin to generate target specific toxins, particularly against tumor lines. Ricin has also stimulated basic research to understand the exact nature of its induction of morbidity and mortality. In this issue of Toxins we present contemporary work on this intriguing, multifaceted toxin.
Prof. Dr. Bruce Magun
Prof. Dr. Jon D. Robertus
- drug design
- cell trafficking