The human body relies on proteins for essential functions such as hormone and enzyme production, the formation of motor proteins, and the building of muscle tissues. Protein can be obtained from various sources, including eggs, meat, fish, nuts, and supplements. However, there's an exception to the acceptability of protein sources—Ricin, a specific protein molecule with potentially lethal consequences, sourced from a seed native to East Africa
It is made up of two protein chains consisting of about 529 amino acids in total and it is sourced from a seed which is native to East Africa.Comprising two protein chains, Ricin toxin A and Ricin toxin B, Ricin becomes toxic only when these chains are bound together. For example, Barley grain contains Ricin's protein A toxin, but lacking protein B toxin makes it safe to consume. Protein B toxin plays a crucial role in Ricin's ability to enter cells and cause damage.
The protein B toxin is responsible for Ricin's ability to enter into cells and cause damage and without it, the protein cannot cause any damage. In the body, protein toxin B binds to a glycoprotein known as N-acetylgalactosamine which is on the surface of cells causing the cell to engulf the ricin protein. Once in the cell, they head straight for the Golgi apparatus where disulfide isomerase, an enzyme that cleaves the disulfide bond that joins the toxin A an B protein.
When the disulfide bond is cut, it joins the protein toxin A and protein toxin B and with this, protein toxin A has an exposed enzyme pocket which allows it to function as an enzyme causing it to reek havoc to cell as it enters the cytoplasm. They begin by attacking the ribosomes which are responsible for assembling amino acids to proteins. The toxin A protein then cleaves Adine molecule which is needed to stabilize amino acid but when this is destroyed, the cells cannot stabilize protein, thereby preventing it from making proteins.
With this, proteins are unable to make enzymes, receptors, motor proteins, and so on, causing cells to shut down leading to organ failure in the body leading to death. When it comes to Ricin vaccine, there are no cure for it but it has vaccines that help generate antibodies which prevents the protein from entering the cell but the vaccines are very hard to get.
Ricin itself can get into the body through ingestion, inhalation, injection, or even by dissolving in the mucous of the eyes when gotten through airborne dusts. The protein structure is ttightly packed due to disulfide bonds which makes it resistant to stomach acid. To be sure of where Ricin comes from, it comes from the inner oily tissue of Castor bean. Castor beans is used to extract castor oil which is used medicinally as a laxative and as a moisturizer. Since Ricin is Hydrophobic, it doesn't dissolve in castor oil but for safety purposes, the oil is often heated for about 176F or 80C so as to denature ricin.
With low doses of Ricin, it can lead to localized organ damage while a high dose can lead to systemic organ failure. While the low dose might not be fatal, they can lead to the damage of vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, and lungs.
Understanding the intricate details of Ricin's mechanism and its potential harm underscores the importance of caution and safety measures when dealing with this potent protein toxin.