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Clin Chim Acta. 1999 Oct;288(1-2):73-90.

Improved determination of acetylcholinesterase activity in human whole blood.

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Walther-Straub-Institut für Pharmakologie und Toxikologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Nussbaumstrasse 26, D-80336, München, Germany.


Determination of erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity is the appropriate tool for the diagnosis of organophosphate exposure and intoxication. The original colorimetric Ellman procedure is disturbed by a high hemoglobin absorption at 412 nm. In our modified method the wavelength was changed to 436 nm. This reduced the indicator absorption to 80% and the hemoglobin absorption to 25%. The signal-to-noise ratio was further enhanced by reduction of pH and substrate concentration, thus making it possible to measure 3% residual activity. AChE activity was determined in whole blood samples in the presence of the selective butyrylcholinesterase inhibitor ethopropazine. Dilution of blood samples (1:100) stops secondary reactions in the presence of inhibitor (organophosphate) and reactivator (oxime). Normalization of the AChE activity to the hemoglobin content, determined as cyanmethemoglobin, prevented dilution errors. This modified approach provides a simple way for sensitive and precise determination of AChE activity in whole blood in the presence of organophosphates even with low-tech equipment.

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