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Neurosignals. 2002 May-Jun;11(3):130-43.

The origin of the molecular diversity and functional anchoring of cholinesterases.

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  • 1CNRS UMR 8544, Laboratoire de Neurobiologie, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France.


Vertebrates possess two cholinesterases, acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) which both hydrolyze acetylcholine, but differ in their specificity towards other substrates, and in their sensitivity to inhibitors. In mammals, the AChE gene produces three types of coding regions through the choice of 3' splice acceptor sites, generating proteins which possess the same catalytic domain, associated with distinct C-terminal peptides. AChE subunits of type R ('readthrough') produce soluble monomers; they are expressed during development and induced by stress in the mouse brain. AChE subunits of type H ('hydrophobic') produce GPI-anchored dimers, but also secreted molecules; they are mostly expressed in blood cells. Subunits of type T ('tailed') exist for both AChE and BChE. They represent the enzyme forms expressed in brain and muscle. These subunits generate a variety of quaternary structures, including homomeric oligomers (monomers, dimers, tetramers), as well as hetero-oligomeric assemblies with anchoring proteins, ColQ and PRiMA. Mutations in the four-helix bundle (FHB) zone of the catalytic domain indicate that subunits of type H and T use the same interaction for dimerization. On the other hand, the C-terminal T peptide is necessary for tetramerization. Four T peptides, organized as amphiphilic alpha helices, can assemble around proline-rich motifs of ColQ or PRiMA. The association of AChE(T) or BChE subunits with ColQ produces collagen-tailed molecules, which are inserted in the extracellular matrix, e.g. in the basal lamina of neuromuscular junctions. Their association with PRiMA produces membrane-bound tetramers which constitute the predominant form of cholinesterases in the mammalian brain; in muscles, the level of PRiMA-anchored tetramers is regulated by exercise, but their functional significance remains unknown. In brain and muscles, the hydrolysis of acetylcholine by cholinesterases, in different contexts, and their possible noncatalytic functions clearly depend on their localization by ColQ or PRiMA.

Copyright 2002 S. Karger AG, Basel

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