Cholinesterases and the fine line between poison and remedy

Carey N. Pope, Stephen Brimijoin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Acetylcholinesterase (AChE, EC and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE, EC are related enzymes found across the animal kingdom. The critical role of acetylcholinesterase in neurotransmission has been known for almost a century, but a physiological role for butyrylcholinesterase is just now emerging. The cholinesterases have been deliberately targeted for both therapy and toxicity, with cholinesterase inhibitors being used in the clinic for a variety of disorders and conversely for their toxic potential as pesticides and chemical weapons. Non-catalytic functions of the cholinesterases (ChEs) participate in both neurodevelopment and disease. Manipulating either the catalytic activities or the structure of these enzymes can potentially shift the balance between beneficial and adverse effect in a wide number of physiological processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-216
Number of pages12
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Alzheimer's
  • Butyrylcholinesterase
  • Cholinergic signaling
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Ghrelin metabolism
  • Organophosphates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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