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We investigated the molecular and kinetic properties of two acetylcholinesterases (AmAChE1 and AmAChE2) from the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera. Western blot analysis revealed that AmAChE2 has most of catalytic activity rather than AmAChE1, further suggesting that AmAChE2 is responsible for synaptic transmission in A. mellifera, in contrast to most other insects. AmAChE2 was predominately expressed in the ganglia and head containing the central nervous system (CNS), while AmAChE1 was abundantly observed not only in the CNS but also in the peripheral nervous system/non-neuronal tissues. Both AmAChEs exist as homodimers; the monomers are covalently connected via a disulfide bond under native conditions. However, AmAChE2 was associated with the cell membrane via the glycophosphatidylinositol anchor, while AmAChE1 was present as a soluble form. The two AmAChEs were functionally expressed with a baculovirus system. Kinetic analysis revealed that AmAChE2 has approximately 2,500-fold greater catalytic efficiency toward acetylthiocholine and butyrylthiocholine than AmAChE1, supporting the synaptic function of AmAChE2. In addition, AmAChE2 likely serves as the main target of the organophosphate (OP) and carbamate (CB) insecticides as judged by the lower IC(50) values against AmAChE2 than against AmAChE1. When OP and CB insecticides were pre-incubated with a mixture of AmAChE1 and AmAChE2, a significant reduction in the inhibition of AmAChE2 was observed, suggesting a protective role of AmAChE1 against xenobiotics. Taken together, based on their tissue distribution pattern, molecular and kinetic properties, AmAChE2 plays a major role in synaptic transmission, while AmAChE1 has non-neuronal functions, including chemical defense.


Young Ho Kim, Deok Jea Cha, Je Won Jung, Hyung Wook Kwon, Si Hyeock Lee. Molecular and kinetic properties of two acetylcholinesterases from the western honey bee, Apis mellifera. PloS one. 2012;7(11):e48838

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PMID: 23144990

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