Multifunctional compounds lithium chloride and methylene Blue attenuate the negative effects of diisopropylfluorophosphate on axonal transport in rat cortical neurons

Sean X. Naughton, Wayne D. Beck, Zhe Wei, Guangyu Wu, Alvin V. Terry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Organophosphates (OPs) are valuable as pesticides in agriculture and for controlling deadly vector-borne illnesses; however, they are highly toxic and associated with many deleterious health effects in humans including long-term neurological impairments. Antidotal treatment regimens are available to combat the symptoms of acute OP toxicity, which result from the irreversible inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AChE). However, there are no established treatments for the long-term neurological consequences of OP exposure. In addition to AChE, OPs can negatively affect multiple protein targets as well as biological processes such as axonal transport. Given the fundamental nature of axonal transport to neuronal health, we rationalized that this process might serve as a general focus area for novel therapeutic strategies against OP toxicity. In the studies described here, we employed a multi-target, phenotypic screening, and drug repurposing strategy for the evaluations of potential novel OP-treatments using a primary neuronal culture model and time-lapse live imaging microscopy. Two multi-target compounds, lithium chloride (LiCl) and methylene blue (MB), which are FDA-approved for other indications, were evaluated for their ability to prevent the negative effects of the OP, diisopropylfluorophosphate (DFP) on axonal transport. The results indicated that both LiCl and MB prevented DFP-induced impairments in anterograde and retrograde axonal transport velocities in a concentration dependent manner. While in vivo studies will be required to confirm our in vitro findings, these experiments support the potential of LiCl and MB as repurposed drugs for the treatment of the long-term neurological deficits associated with OP exposure (currently an unmet medical need).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number152379
Publication statusPublished - Feb 15 2020



  • Drug repurposing
  • Gulf war illness
  • Nerve agent
  • Organophosphate
  • Pesticide
  • Phenotypic
  • Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology

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