Clostridium botulinum

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A Microbial Biorealm page on the genus Clostridium botulinum


Higher order taxa

Bacteria; Firmicutes; Clostridia; Clostridiales; clostridiaceae


NCBI: Taxonomy

Clostridium Botulinum

Description and significance

The bacterium Clostridium botulinum is a rod-shaped organism of the genus Clostridium. Most commonly found in soil, C. botulinum are found to grow most efficiently in low-oxygen conditions. First discovered and isolated by Emile van Ermengem in 1896, C. botulinum survive by forming spores, remaining in a dormant state until environmental conditions arise that allow them to grow. The importance of sequencing the genome of Clostridium Botulinum lies in its ability to produce a toxin known as botulin, one of the most powerful known toxins that lead to to the paralytic illness known as botulism.

Describe the appearance, habitat, etc. of the organism, and why it is important enough to have its genome sequenced. Describe how and where it was isolated. Include a picture or two (with sources) if you can find them.

Genome structure

The genome size of C. botulinum is estimated to be around 4,039 kbp, determined from the summation of restriction fragments of MluI, RsrII, and SmaI restriction endonuclease digestions. The size of the chromosome of C. botulinum is relatively larger than many other gram-positive bacteria studied, possibly indicating that extra genomic requirements are needed for sporulation or the formation of disease-inducing toxins. Genomic analysis by pulse-field gel electrophoresis revealed genes encoding neurotoxin, hemagglutinin A, and genese for a temperate phage, and various transposon Tn916 sites.

Describe the size and content of the genome. How many chromosomes? Circular or linear? Other interesting features? What is known about its sequence? Does it have any plasmids? Are they important to the organism's lifestyle?

Cell structure and metabolism

C. botulinum lies dormant in the form of spores until the right environmental conditions are met. These spores are very resistant to adverse environmental effects, making them amenable to most environments and very hard to kill. The spores will grow under favorable conditions (anaerobiosis and substrate-rich environments) and will begin to produce their toxins as they rapidly propagate.

To prevent the occurrence of this bacterium in processed foods, many companies can their food with a pressurized boil to kill the bacterium with high temperatures. Other techniques include high levels of oxygen, high acidity, high ratio of dissolved sugar, or very low levels of moisture.

Describe any interesting features and/or cell structures; how it gains energy; what important molecules it produces.


Describe any interactions with other organisms (included eukaryotes), contributions to the environment, effect on environment, etc.


Clostridium botulinum consists of seven different subtypes, labeled with the letters A-G. While each of these subtypes produce a different botulin toxin, all of which, with the exception of C and D, are human pathogens. Types A and B, which are commonly found in soil, are primarily the cause of botulism outbreaks in the United States, while Type E, which is found in fish, also contributes to cases of botulism in the country.

The botulinum toxin produced by this organism prevents the release of actylcholine at the neuromuscular junction, inducing paralysis by inhibiting muscle contraction. A main cause of death from this disease involve death by asphyxiation, which is caused by the inability of the chest muscles to contract to facilitate breathing.

How does this organism cause disease? Human, animal, plant hosts? Virulence factors, as well as patient symptoms.

Application to Biotechnology

Does this organism produce any useful compounds or enzymes? What are they and how are they used?

Current Research

Enter summaries of the most recent research here--at least three required


[Sample reference] Takai, K., Sugai, A., Itoh, T., and Horikoshi, K. "Palaeococcus ferrophilus gen. nov., sp. nov., a barophilic, hyperthermophilic archaeon from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent chimney". International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 2000. Volume 50. p. 489-500.

Edited by Brannon Peralta student of Rachel Larsen and Kit Pogliano