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Neurochem Int. 1992 Oct;21(3):381-96.

Changes in acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase in Alzheimer's disease resemble embryonic development--a study of molecular forms.

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  • 1Paul Flechsig Institute of Brain Research, Department of Neurochemistry, University of Leipzig, Germany.


The pattern of molecular forms of acetylcholinesterase (AChE, EC and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE, EC separated by density gradient centrifugation was investigated in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid in Alzheimer's disease (AD), in human embryonic brain and in rat brain after experimental cholinergic deafferentation of the cerebral cortex. While a selective loss of the AChE G4 form was a rather constant finding in AD, a small but significant increase of G1 for both AChE and BChE was found in the most severely affected cases. Both in normal human brain and in AD a significant relationship could be established between the AChE G4/G1 ratio in different brain regions and the activity of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT). A similar decrease of the AChE G4 form as observed in AD can be induced in rat by experimental cholinergic deafferentation of the cerebral cortex. The increase in G1 of both AChE and BChE in different brain regions in AD is quantitatively related to the local density of neuritic plaques which are histochemically reactive for both enzymes. In human embryonic brain, a high abundance of G1 and a low G4/G1 ratio for both AChE and BChE was found resembling the pattern observed in AD. Furthermore, both in embryonic brain and in AD AChE shows no substrate inhibition which is a constant feature of the enzyme in the adult human brain. It is, therefore, concluded that the degeneration of the cholinergic cortical afferentation in AD as reflected by a decrease of AChE G4 is accompanied by the process of a neuritic sprouting response involved in plaque formation which is probably associated with the expression of a developmental form of the enzyme.

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