Mechanisms of organophosphorus ester-induced delayed neurotoxicity: type I and type II.


Journal Article (Review)

Some organophosphorus compounds produce neurologic dysfunctions, known as OPIDN, after a delay period that is accompanied by neuropathic damage in the central and peripheral nervous systems. This group of chemicals may be divided into two classes, Type I and II, based on chemical structure, species selectivity, age sensitivity, the length of latent period, clinical signs, morphology and distribution of neuropathologic lesions, protection with phenylmethyl sulfonyl fluoride, inhibition of neurotoxic esterase, and effect on catecholamine secretion from bovine adrenome-dullary chromaffin cells. The importance of this effect is underlined by the fact that incidents involving more than 40,000 cases of OPIDN in humans have been documented from 1899 to 1989. Most of these compounds are direct or indirect inhibitors of AChE, and produce acute cholinergic effects. Neurologic deficits are characterized by three phases: progressive, stationary, and improvement. Prognosis of OPIDN depends on the extent of damage of the nervous system. Improvement or even recovery of functions may follow mild cases, whereas severe toxicity results in long-lasting neurologic dysfunctions reflecting spinal cord damage. Recent studies have shown that delayed neurotoxic organophosphorus compounds interact with Ca2+/calmodulin kinase II (CaM kinase II), an enzyme responsible for the endogenous phosphorylation of cytoskeletal proteins, i.e. microtubules, neurofilaments, and MAP-2. This leads to an increased activity of CaM kinase II and enhanced phosphorylation of cytoskeletal elements, and eventually in the disassembly of cytoskeletal proteins. The dissociation of cytoskeletal proteins causes increased fast axonal transport in the treated animals resulting in the accumulation of altered cytoskeletal elements in the distal portions of the axon. Abnormal tubulin and neurofilaments are transformed into filamentous polymers and undergo condensation and dissolution. Concomitantly, proliferated endoplasmic reticulum and accumulated mitochondria degenerate and release Ca2+ ions. This leads to Ca2(+)-activated proteolysis of the cytoskeleton and interruption of ionic balance across the axonal membrane resulting in the uptake of water and axonal swelling, which subsequently degenerates. A similar mechanism may cause secondary myelin degeneration.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Abou-Donia, MB; Lapadula, DM

Published Date

  • January 1990

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 30 /

Start / End Page

  • 405 - 440

PubMed ID

  • 2188574

Pubmed Central ID

  • 2188574

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1545-4304

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0362-1642

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1146/


  • eng