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FRANCIS LEROY & MICHAEL PIERARD, BIOCOSMOS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY FRANCIS LEROY & MICHAEL PIERARD, BIOCOSMOS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
DIFP neurotoxin action, animation. In the brain presynaptic nerve cells (left) use an electric membrane potential to pass information onto postsynaptic cells (right). This action potential reaches the end of the nerve cell and causes the release of a neurotransmitter acetylcholine (blue and yellow). Acetylcholine then binds to channel receptors, which open allowing sodium ions to flow into the postsynaptic cell. Here diisopropyl fluorophosphate (DIFP), a potent neurotoxin, binds to the active site of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. This enzyme usually functions to break down acetylcholine once a nerve impulse has been transmitted. However if the enzyme is inhibited, acetylcholine accumulates and nerve impulses cannot be stopped, causing prolonged muscle contraction.
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