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Protein Sci. 1999 Dec;8(12):2553-61.

Acetylcholinesterase of Schistosoma mansoni--functional correlates. Contributed in honor of Professor Hans Neurath's 90th birthday.

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Department of Immunology, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is an enzyme broadly distributed in many species, including parasites. It occurs in multiple molecular forms that differ in their quaternary structure and mode of anchoring to the cell surface. This review summarizes biochemical and immunological investigations carried out in our laboratories on AChE of the helmint, Schistosoma mansoni. AChE appears in S. mansoni in two principal molecular forms, both globular, with sedimentation coefficients of approximately 6.5 and 8 S. On the basis of their substrate specificity and sensitivity to inhibitors, both are "true" acetylcholinesterases. Approximately half of the AChE activity of S. mansoni is located on the outer surface of the parasite, attached to the tegumental membrane via a covalently attached glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor. The remainder is located within the parasite, mainly associated with muscle tissue. Whereas the internal enzyme is most likely involved in termination of neurotransmission at cholinergic synapses, the role of the surface enzyme remains to be established; there are, however, indications that it is involved in signal transduction. The two forms of AChE differ in their heparin-binding properties, only the internal 8 S form of the AChE being retained on a heparin column. The two forms differ also in their immunological specificity, since they are selectively recognized by different monoclonal antibodies. Polyclonal antibodies raised against S. mansoni AChE purified by affinity chromatography are specific for the parasite AChE, reacting with both molecular forms, but do not recognize AChE from other species. They interact with the surface-localized enzyme on the intact organism, and produce almost total complement-dependent killing of the parasite. S. mansoni AChE is thus demonstrated to be a functional protein, involved in multifaceted activities, which can serve as a suitable candidate for diagnostic purposes, vaccine development, and drug design.

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