The Non–neuronal and Nonmuscular Effects of Botulinum Toxin

An Opportunity for a Deadly Molecule to Treat Disease in the Skin and Beyond

S.A. Grando; C.B. Zachary


The British Journal of Dermatology. 2018;178(5):1011-1019. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


There is growing evidence that botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) exhibit biological effects on various human cell types with a host of associated clinical implications. This review aims to provide an update on the non–neuronal and nonmuscular effects of botulinum toxin. We critically analysed recent reports on the structure and function of cellular signalling systems subserving biological effects of BoNTs. The BoNT receptors and intracellular targets are not unique for neurotransmission. They have been found in both neuronal and non–neuronal cells, but there are differences in how BoNT binds to, and acts on, neuronal vs. non–neuronal cells. The non–neuronal cells that express one or more BoNT/A–binding proteins, and/or cleavage target synaptosomal–associated protein 25, include: epidermal keratinocytes; mesenchymal stem cells from subcutaneous adipose; nasal mucosal cells; urothelial cells; intestinal, prostate and alveolar epithelial cells; breast cell lines; neutrophils; and macrophages. Serotype BoNT/A can also elicit specific biological effects in dermal fibroblasts, sebocytes and vascular endothelial cells. Nontraditional applications of BoNT have been reported for the treatment of the following dermatological conditions: hyperhidrosis, Hailey–Hailey disease, Darier disease, inversed psoriasis, aquagenic palmoplantar keratoderma, pachyonychia congenita, multiple eccrine hydrocystomas, eccrine angiomatous hamartoma, eccrine sweat gland naevi, congenital eccrine naevus, Raynaud phenomenon and cutaneous leiomyomas. Experimental studies have demonstrated the ability of BoNT/A to protect skin flaps, facilitate wound healing, decrease thickness of hypertrophic scars, produce an anti–ageing effect, improve a mouse model of psoriasiform dermatitis, and have also revealed extracutaneous effects of BoNT arising from its anti–inflammatory and anticancer properties. BoNTs have a much wider range of applications than originally understood, and the individual cellular responses to the cholinergic impacts of BoNTs could provide fertile ground for future studies.