Epidemics of organophosphate-induced delayed neuropathy (OPIDN) have paralysed thousands of people. This syndrome of nerve axon degeneration is initiated by organophosphates which react with neuropathy target esterase (NTE). Dosing experiments with adult chickens raise the possibility that OPIDN is initiated by a gain-of-function mechanism. By contrast, loss of NTE function by mutation causes massive apoptosis in Drosophila brain. Now, Winrow et al. show that nte(-/-) mice die by mid-gestation, but nte(+/-) mice appear hyperactive and are more sensitive than wild-type mice to a fatal form of OP toxicity. Thus, different toxic syndromes may be initiated via a single target protein.
Copyright 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.