On the origins and biosynthesis of tetrodotoxin

Rocky Chau, John A. Kalaitzis, Brett A. Neilan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

165 Citations (Scopus)


The potent neurotoxin tetrodotoxin (TTX) has been identified from taxonomically diverse marine organisms. TTX possesses a unique cage-like structure, however, its biosynthesis has yet to be elucidated. Biosynthetic studies in the TTX-producing newt Taricha torosa, and in bacterial genera, including Vibrio, have proven inconclusive. Indeed, very few studies have been performed that address the cellular production of TTX. Here we review the sources of TTX described to date and provide evidence for the biosynthesis of TTX by symbiotic microorganisms in higher taxa. Chemical and genetic based biosynthesis studies of TTX undertaken thus far are discussed and we outline approaches which may be useful for expanding upon the current body of knowledge. The complex biosynthesis of structurally similar toxins, that reveal clues into the biosynthetic pathway of TTX, is also presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-72
Number of pages12
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Tetrodotoxin (TTX)
  • Toxin biosynthesis
  • Polyketide
  • Non-ribosomal peptide
  • Amidinotransferase


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