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A toxin (Greek: τοξικόν, toxikon, lit. (poison) for use on arrows) is a poisonous substance produced by living cells or organisms that is active at very low concentrations. Toxins can be small molecules, peptides, or proteins and are capable of causing disease on contact or absorption with body tissues by interacting with biological macromolecules such as enzymes or cellular receptors. Toxins vary greatly in their severity, ranging from usually minor and acute (as in a bee sting) to almost immediately deadly (as in botulinum toxin).
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.
Additional recommended knowledge
Biotoxins in nature have two primary functions:
Some of the more well known types of biotoxins include:
Ricinis is a plant toxin found in the castor bean plant.
When used non-technically, the term "toxin" is often applied to any toxic substances. Toxic substances not of biological origin are more properly termed poisons. Many non-technical and lifestyle journalists also follow this usage to refer to toxic substances in general, though some specialist journalists at publishers such as BBC and The Guardian maintain the distinction that toxins are only those produced by living organisms.
In the context of alternative medicine the term is often used nonspecifically to refer to any substance claimed to cause ill health, ranging anywhere from trace amounts of pesticides to common food items like refined sugar or additives like artificial sweeteners and MSG.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Toxin". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|