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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2004 May 1;196(3):356-66.

Resistance to organophosphorus agent toxicity in transgenic mice expressing the G117H mutant of human butyrylcholinesterase.

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University of Nebraska Medical Center, Eppley Institute, Omaha, NE 68198-6805, USA.


Organophosphorus toxicants (OP) include chemical nerve agents and pesticides. The goal of this work was to find out whether an animal could be made resistant to OP toxicity by genetic engineering. The human butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) mutant G117H was chosen for study because it has the unusual ability to hydrolyze OP as well as acetylcholine, and it is resistant to inhibition by OP. Human G117H BChE, under the control of the ROSA26 promoter, was expressed in all tissues of transgenic mice. A stable transgenic mouse line expressed 0.5 microg/ml of human G117H BChE in plasma as well as 2 microg/ml of wild-type mouse BChE. Intestine, kidneys, stomach, lungs, heart, spleen, liver, brain, and muscle expressed 0.6-0.15 microg/g of G117H BChE. Transgenic mice were normal in behavior and fertility. The LD50 dose of echothiophate for wild-type mice was 0.1 mg/kg sc. This dose caused severe cholinergic signs of toxicity and lethality in wild-type mice, but caused no deaths and only mild toxicity in transgenic animals. The mechanism of protection was investigated by measuring acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and BChE activity. It was found that AChE and endogenous BChE were inhibited to the same extent in echothiophate-treated wild type and transgenic mice. This led to the hypothesis that protection against echothiophate toxicity was not explained by hydrolysis of echothiophate. In conclusion, the transgenic G117H BChE mouse demonstrates the factors required to achieve protection from OP toxicity in a vertebrate animal.

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