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Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Aug 7;52(15):8065-8074. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b04004. Epub 2018 Jul 20.

Acetylcholinesterase Is a Potential Biomarker for a Broad Spectrum of Organic Environmental Pollutants.

Fu H1,2, Xia Y1,2, Chen Y1,2, Xu T1,2, Xu L1,2, Guo Z1,2, Xu H3, Xie HQ1,2, Zhao B1,2.

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State Key Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences , Chinese Academy of Sciences , Beijing 100085 , China.
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085 , China.
School of Public Health and Management , Ningxia Medical University , Yinchuan , Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region 750004 , China.


Acetylcholinesterase (AChE, EC is a classical biomarker for monitoring contamination and intoxication of organophosphate (OP) and carbamate pesticides. In addition to these classical environmental AChE inhibitors, other organic toxic substances have been found to alter AChE activity in various species. These emerging organic AChE disruptors include certain persistent organic pollutants (POPs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and wildly used chemicals, most of which have received considerable public health concern in recent years. It is necessary to re-evaluate the environmental significances of AChE in terms of these toxic substances. Therefore, the present review is aiming to summarize correlations of AChE activity of certain organisms with the level of the contaminants in particular habitats, disruptions of AChE activity upon treatment with the emerging disruptors in vivo and in vitro, and action mechanisms underlying the effects on AChE. Over 40 chemicals belonging to six main categories were reviewed, including 12 POPs listed in the Stockholm Convention. AChE activity in certain organisms has been found to be well correlated with the contamination level of certain persistent pesticides and PAHs in particular habitats. Moreover, it has been documented that most of the listed toxic chemicals could inhibit AChE activity in diverse species ranging from invertebrates to mammals. Besides directly inactivating AChE, the mechanisms in terms of interference with the biosynthesis have been recognized for some emerging AChE disruptors, particularly for dioxins. The collected evidence suggests that AChE could serve as a potential biomarker for a diverse spectrum of organic environmental pollutants.


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