toxin n : a poisonous substance produced during the metabolism and growth of certain microorganisms and some higher plant and animal species
EtymologyThe word "toxin" comes from the Greek "toxikon" which means "arrow poison".
- Rhymes: -ɒksɪn
a toxic or poisonous substance
- Hungarian: méreg
A toxin (Greek: , 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.
Biotoxins in nature have two primary functions:
Some of the more well known types of biotoxins include:
- Cyanotoxins, produced by cyanobacteria
- Hemotoxins target and destroy red blood cells, and are transmitted through the bloodstream. Organisms that possess hemotoxins include:
- Necrotoxins cause necrosis (i.e., death) in the cells they encounter and destroy all types of tissue. Necrotoxins spread through the bloodstream, but infect all tissues. In humans, skin and muscle tissues are most sensitive to necrotoxins. Organisms that possess necrotoxins include:
- Neurotoxins primarily affect the nervous systems of animals. Organisms that possess neurotoxins 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 the 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 non-specifically 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.http://www.curezone.com/diseases/toxins/
toxin in Catalan: Toxina
toxin in German: Toxin
toxin in Esperanto: Toksino
toxin in Spanish: Toxina
toxin in French: Toxine
toxin in Hebrew: רעלן
toxin in Italian: Tossina
toxin in Japanese: 毒
toxin in Dutch: Toxine
toxin in Romanian: Toxină
toxin in Russian: Токсин
toxin in Swedish: Toxin
toxin in Chinese: 毒素
abomination, acaricide, anthelmintic, antibiotic, antiseptic, atrocity, bad, bane, befoulment, blight, bug bomb, carbamate insecticide, chemosterilant, chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide, contact poison, corruption, crying evil, damage, defilement, defoliant, despoliation, destruction, detriment, disinfectant, eradicant, evil, fumigant, fungicide, germicide, grievance, harm, havoc, herbicide, hurt, ill, infection, injury, insect powder, insecticide, microbicide, mischief, miticide, organic chlorine, organic phosphate insecticide, outrage, pesticide, poison, pollution, rat poison, roach paste, roach powder, rodenticide, stomach poison, systemic, systemic insecticide, the worst, toxic, toxicant, venin, venom, vermicide, vexation, virus, weed killer, woe, wrong