• cholinesterase activity;
  • butyrylcholinesterase;
  • acetylcholinesterase;
  • animal whole blood;
  • cholinesterase inhibitors;
  • ethopropazine;
  • (−)-huperzine A


Current methods for measuring acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activities in whole blood use butyrylcholinesterase (BChE)-selective inhibitors. However, the poor selectivity of these inhibitors results in the inhibition of AChE activity to some degree, leading to errors in reported values. The goal of this study was to develop and validate a simple assay for measuring AChE and BChE activities in whole blood from humans as well as experimental animals. Blood was fractionated into plasma and erythrocytes, and cholinesterase activities were titrated against ethopropazine and (−)-huperzine A to determine the lowest concentration of ethopropazine that inhibited BChE completely without affecting AChE activity and the lowest concentration of (−)-huperzine A that inhibited AChE completely without interfering with BChE activity. Results indicate that 20 µm ethopropazine can be successfully used for the accurate measurement of AChE activity in blood from humans as well as animals. Use of (−)-huperzine A is not required for measuring BChE activity in normal or ‘exposed’ blood samples. The method was validated for blood from several animal species, including mice, rats, guinea pigs, dogs, minipigs, and African green, cynomolgus and rhesus monkeys. This method is superior to all reported methods, does not require the separation of erythrocyte and plasma fractions, and is suitable for measuring cholinesterase activities in fresh or frozen blood from animals that were exposed to nerve agents or those that were administered high doses of BChE. The method is simple, direct, reproducible, and reliable and can easily be adapted for high-throughput screening of blood samples. Published 2012. This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.