Inhibition of human brain and RBC acetylcholinesterase (AChE) by heptylphysostigmine (HPTL)

Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 1992 Oct;14(8):615-21.


Heptylphysostigmine (HPTL), a derivative of the AChE inhibitor physostigmine (PHY), is under investigation as a therapeutic agent in Alzheimer's disease. HPTL is active against human RBC AChE both in vitro and in vivo. Activity of HPTL against human brain has not been documented. We have developed an in vitro assay system using particulate membrane fractions which permits comparison of inhibition and recovery kinetics of human RBC (primarily globular dimer) and brain (primarily globular tetramer) membrane-bound forms. Under these conditions the HPTLIC50 is similar for the two forms. RBC AChE inhibition spontaneously reverses in 24 h, as occurs in vivo. In striking contrast, activity of inhibited brain enzyme does not recover on overnight incubation. DDVP-induced inhibition, but not HPTL inhibition, can be reversed by the oxime 2-PAM. Some recovery of HPTL inhibition, but not to the level seen with RBC AChE, occurs on addition of heat-stable fractions from serum or CSF. Brain enzyme recovers rapidly from PHY in this system. Responses of brain and RBC AChE to HPTL indicate that these forms are functionally as well as structurally distinct. Since brain inhibition apparently does not spontaneously reverse like RBC inhibition, peripheral measurements of patient responses should be assessed with caution during treatment with HPTL.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / blood
  • Acetylcholinesterase / metabolism*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / enzymology*
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Cholinesterase Reactivators / pharmacology
  • Dichlorvos / pharmacology
  • Erythrocytes / drug effects
  • Erythrocytes / enzymology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Physostigmine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Physostigmine / pharmacology
  • Pralidoxime Compounds / pharmacology


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Cholinesterase Reactivators
  • Pralidoxime Compounds
  • physostigmine heptyl
  • Dichlorvos
  • Physostigmine
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • pralidoxime