Mutations in Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD), a hallmark of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS) in humans, are shown here to confer striking neuropathology in Drosophila. Heterozygotes with one wild-type and one deleted SOD allele retain the expected 50% of normal activity for this dimeric enzyme. However, heterozygotes with one wild-type and one missense SOD allele show lesser SOD activities, ranging from 37% for a heterozygote carrying a missense mutation predicted from structural models to destabilize the dimer interface, to an average of 13% for several heterozygotes carrying missense mutations predicted to destabilize the subunit fold. Genetic and biochemical evidence suggests a model of dimer dysequilibrium whereby SOD activity in missense heterozygotes is reduced through entrapment of wild-type subunits into unstable or enzymatically inactive heterodimers. This dramatic impairment of the activity of wild-type subunits in vivo has implications for our understanding of FALS and for possible therapeutic strategies.