Some natural toxins exert their actions by inhibiting normal function, for example, the goitrogens inhibit either the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland or the use of iodine to make thyroid hormone.
Other toxins, for example cyanide released from the cyanogenic glycosides, have a toxic effect on all cells, since they interfere with cell metabolism. However, they also can have a specific neurotoxic effect, that is, they poison nerve cells.
Still others have a specific organ which they effect, or 'target organ'. For example, the target organ for the pyrrolizidine alkaloids is the liver.
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Prepared Summer 1997 by Bernadene Magnuson, Ph.D.
University of Idaho, Dept. of Food Science and Toxicology - EXTOXNET FAQ Team.