AskDefine | Define toxins

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of toxin

Extensive Definition

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:
Ricinis is a plant toxin found in the castor bean plant.

Environmental toxins

Non-technical usage

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.

See also

toxins in Catalan: Toxina
toxins in German: Toxin
toxins in Esperanto: Toksino
toxins in Spanish: Toxina
toxins in French: Toxine
toxins in Hebrew: רעלן
toxins in Italian: Tossina
toxins in Japanese: 毒
toxins in Dutch: Toxine
toxins in Romanian: Toxină
toxins in Russian: Токсин
toxins in Swedish: Toxin
toxins in Chinese: 毒素
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1