The goal of this work was to identify the esterases in human plasma and to clarify common misconceptions. The method for identifying esterases was nondenaturing gradient gel electrophoresis stained for esterase activity. We report that human plasma contains four esterases: butyrylcholinesterase (EC 126.96.36.199), paraoxonase (EC 188.8.131.52), acetylcholinesterase (EC 184.108.40.206), and albumin. Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), paraoxonase (PON1), and albumin are in high enough concentrations to contribute significantly to ester hydrolysis. However, only trace amounts of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) are present. Monomeric AChE is seen in wild-type as well as in silent BChE plasma. Albumin has esterase activity with alpha- and beta-naphthylacetate as well as with p-nitrophenyl acetate. Misconception #1 is that human plasma contains carboxylesterase. We demonstrate that human plasma contains no carboxylesterase (EC 220.127.116.11), in contrast to mouse, rat, rabbit, horse, cat, and tiger that have high amounts of plasma carboxylesterase. Misconception #2 is that lab animals have BChE but no AChE in their plasma. We demonstrate that mice, unlike humans, have substantial amounts of soluble AChE as well as BChE in their plasma. Plasma from AChE and BChE knockout mice allowed identification of AChE and BChE bands without the use of inhibitors. Human BChE is irreversibly inhibited by diisopropylfluorophosphate, echothiophate, and paraoxon, but mouse BChE spontaneously reactivates. Since human plasma contains no carboxylesterase, only BChE, PON1, and albumin esterases need to be considered when evaluating hydrolysis of an ester drug in human plasma.
- Butyrylcholinesterase knockout mice
- Cocaine esterase
- Human plasma
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