Curare and Nervous System

Jim Hutchins hutchins at
Fri Feb 10 16:28:32 EST 1995

BojoBass (bojobass at wrote:
: I am a biology professor.  I was wondering what curare actually does to a
: working nerve fiber on the molecular and then organismic level.
[stuff deleted]

Curare is a crude form; the active agent is d-tubocurarine.  (d-, as in
dextro-, for the d- stereoisomer).

d-tubocurarine binds with high affinity to the nicotinic cholinergic
receptor.  Normally, this receptor binds the neurotransmitter acetylcholine,
which is released by motor neurons (nerve cells which control muscle).
When d-tubocurarine is present, it blocks the acetylcholine binding site
of the receptor and prevents acetylcholine from depolarizing the muscle.
This, in turn, prevents muscle contraction.

Curare causes death by paralysis of the respiratory muscles, particularly
the diaphragm.

Presumably, cooking the meat renders the d-tubocurarine inactive, although
I'm not certain about this.

Reference:  Goodman and Gilman, _Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics_,
6th ed.  pp. 223-231.

If you don't have access to this, send me a private e-mail.  I can fax it
to you; you could use fig 11-1 as an overhead for your lecture.

Jim Hutchins


Jim Hutchins                    []     E-Mail: hutchins at
Associate Professor, Anatomy    []     Assistant Professor, Neurology
Univ Mississippi Med Ctr        []     Jackson, MS

More information about the Bioforum mailing list