For my project I focused on two different types of snake venom toxin (alpha and beta neurotoxins) that target the neuromuscular junction. Both of these toxins interfere with the process of muscle contraction, so the objective I’m addressing here is “Describe how a muscle contraction is induced”.

Because my art skills are not the best (the snakes on the image are stock illustrations and I did not draw them myself I’m sorry) and because I think it’s fun to make things rhyme, I chose to write two poems, one about each type of toxin.

For background: alpha-neurotoxins interfere on the muscle side of the synapse (postsynaptic) by binding to the acetylcholine receptor (nAChR), which means acetylcholine itself (ACh) is unable to bind and propagate signaling once it’s released from the motor neuron. Beta-neurotoxins interfere on the neuron side of the synapse (presynaptic) by causing ACh to remain bound up in vesicles within the neuron terminal so it can’t be released into the synapse at all, and never reaches the nAChR on the muscle side. In both cases, the interference with acetylcholine activity can cause muscle paralysis and weakness throughout the body and can ultimately be fatal if untreated.

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