The readthrough variant of acetylcholinesterase remains very minor after heat shock, organophosphate inhibition and stress, in cell culture and in vivo


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Jean Massoulié, Laboratoire de Neurobiologie Cellulaire et Moléculaire, UMR 8544, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France.


Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) exists in various molecular forms, depending on alternative splicing of its transcripts and association with structural proteins. Tetramers of the ‘tailed’ variant (AChET), which are anchored in the cell membrane of neurons by the PRiMA (Proline Rich Membrane Anchor) protein, constitute the main form of AChE in the mammalian brain. In the mouse brain, stress and anticholinesterase inhibitors have been reported to induce expression of the unspliced ‘readthrough’ variant (AChER) mRNA which produces a monomeric form. To generalize this observation, we attempted to quantify AChER and AChET after organophosphate intoxication in the mouse brain and compared the observed effects with those of stress induced by swimming or immobilization; we also analyzed the effects of heat shock and AChE inhibition on neuroblastoma cells. Active AChE molecular forms were characterized by sedimentation and non-denaturing electrophoresis, and AChE transcripts were quantified by real-time PCR. We observed a moderate increase of the AChER transcript in some cases, both in the mouse brain and in neuroblastoma cultures, but we did not detect any increase of the corresponding active enzyme.