The plant toxin ricin is one of the most poisonous naturally occurring proteins, making it an extremely dangerous bioweapon. Scientists have been searching for an effective ricin antidote for decades. However, cytotoxins like ricin also provide important insights into the molecular characteristics of cells, such as the contact points the poison uses to enter cells.
IMBA researchers have now discovered that sugar is a key factor. The researchers identified two genes that make ricin so lethal. Fut9 and Slc35c1 regulate metabolism of a particular sugar in cells, an essential monosaccharide called fucose.