Cholinesterases are ubiquitous carboxylesterase type B enzymes capable of hydrolyzing the neuro-transmitter acetylcholine which are transiently expressed in multiple germline, embryonic, and tumor cells. The acute poisoning effects of various organophosphorous compounds are generally attributed to their irreversible covalent interaction with cholinesterases and block of their catalytic activities. We have recently found a de novo inheritable amplification of a CHE gene encoding defective butyryl-cholinesterase (acylcholine acyl hydrolase; EC 188.8.131.52) in a family under prolonged exposure to the agricultural organophosphorous insecticide methyl parathion. Further analysis revealed that both the CHE and the ACHE genes, encoding acetylcholinesterase (acetylcholine acetyl hydrolase; EC 184.108.40.206), are amplified in leukemias and platelet disorders and that the tumorogenic expression of these genes in ovarian carcinomas is associated with their frequent coamplification in these tumors. The amplification of CHE and ACHE genes in normal and tumor tissues might be analogous to the well-known amplification of other genes encoding target proteins to toxic compounds. As such, it could provide cells a selection advantage when exposed to organophosphorous poisons. Further, since cholinesterases appear to play developmentally important roles in multiple cell types, the amplification and overexpression of their corresponding genes might affect fertility, be related to the progression of various tumor types, and bear upon the ecological and clinical risks involved with the common use of organophosphorous poisons.
Amplification of butyrylcholinesterase and acetylcholinesterase genes in normal and tumor tissues: putative relationship to organophosphorous poisoning
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