Cholinesterase (IPR000997)

Short name: Cholinesterase

Overlapping homologous superfamilies

Family relationships


Cholinesterase enzymes are members of the broader alpha/beta hydrolase family and can be dividied into two distinct groups: those that catalyse the hydrolysis of acetylcholine to choline and acetate (acetylcholinesterases EC: acetylcholine + H2O -> choline + acetate and those that catalyse the conversion of other acylcholines to a choline and a weak acid (cholinesterases EC: an acylcholine + H2O -> choline + a carboxylate

Acetylcholinesterase also acts on a variety of acetic esters and catalyses transacetylations. It is the most intensively studied of the cholinesterase enzymes due to its key physiological role in the turnover of the neurotransmitter acylcholine [PMID: 15907917]. This enzyme is found in, or attached to, cellular or basement membranes of presynaptic cholinergic neurons and postsynaptic cholinoceptive cells within the neuromuscular junction. Signal transmission at the neuromuscular junction involves the release of acylcholine, its interaction with the acycholine receptor and hydrolysis, all occuring in a period of a few milliseconds. Rapid hydrolysis of the newly released aceytlcholine is vital in order to prevent continuous firing of the nerve impulses [PMID: 8161450]. Consistent with its role in this process, acetylcholinesterase has an unusually high turnover number, ensuring that acetylcholine is broken down quickly. There is evidence to suggest that acetylcholinesterase has additional important roles including involvement in neuronal adhesion, the formation of Alzheimer fibrils, and neurite growth [PMID: 8890157, PMID: 8608006, PMID: 11169626].

The 3D structure of acetylcholinesterase and a cholinesterase have been determined [PMID: 1678899, PMID: 12869558]. These proteins share the 3-layer alpha-beta-alpha sandwich fold common to members of the alpha/beta hydrolase family. Surprisingly, given the high turnover number of acetylcholinesterase, the active site of these enzymes is located at the bottom of a deep and narrow cleft, named the active-site gorge.

Some of the proteins in this group are responsible for the molecular basis of the blood group antigens, surface markers on the outside of the red blood cell membrane. Most of these markers are proteins, but some are carbohydrates attached to lipids or proteins [Reid M.E., Lomas-Francis C. The Blood Group Antigen FactsBook Academic Press, London / San Diego, (1997)]. Acetylcholinesterase (EC: belongs to the Yt blood group system and is associated with Yt(a/b) antigen.

GO terms

Biological Process

No terms assigned in this category.

Molecular Function

GO:0004104 cholinesterase activity

Cellular Component

No terms assigned in this category.

Contributing signatures

Signatures from InterPro member databases are used to construct an entry.