Functional requirements for the optimal catalytic configuration of the AChE active center

Chem Biol Interact. 2005 Dec 15:157-158:123-31. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2005.10.021. Epub 2005 Oct 27.


Functional analysis of the HuAChE active center architecture revealed that accommodation of structurally diverse substrates and other ligands is achieved through interactions with specific subsites such as the acyl pocket, cation binding site, hydrophobic site or the oxyanion hole. Recent studies have begun to unravel the role of this active center architecture in maintaining the optimal catalytic facility of the enzyme through inducing proper alignment of the catalytic triad. The exact positioning of the catalytic glutamate (Glu334) seems to be determined by a hydrogen bond network including several polar residues and water molecules. Disruption of this network by replacement of Ser229 by alanine is thought to remove the Glu334 carboxylate from the vicinity of His447 abolishing catalytic activity. The proper orientation of the catalytic histidine side chain is maintained by these polar interactions as well as through "aromatic trapping" by residues lining the HuAChE active center gorge. Thus, replacement of aromatic residues in the vicinity of His447, as in the F295A/F338A or in the Y72N/Y124Q/W286A/F295L/F297V/Y337A (hexamutant which mimicks the aromatic lining of HuBChE) enzymes, resulted in a dramatic decrease in catalytic activity, which was proposed to originate from catalytically nonproductive mobility of His447. Yet, HuBChE is catalytically efficient indicating that "aromatic trapping" is not the only way to conformationally stabilize the His447 side chain. A possible restriction of this mobility in a series of F295X/F338A HuAChEs was examined in silico followed by site-directed mutagenesis. Both simulations and reactivities of the actual F295X/F338A enzymes, carrying various aliphatic residues at position 295, indicate that of the bulky amino acids, like leucine or isoleucine, only methionine was capable of maintaining the catalytically viable conformation of His447. The F295M/F338A HuAChE was only two-fold less reactive than the F338A enzyme toward acetylthiocholine, and exhibited wild type-like reactivity toward covalent modifiers of the catalytic Ser203. The findings are consistent with the notion that different combinations of steric interference and specific polar interactions serve to maintain the position of His447 and thereby the high efficiency of the catalytic machinery. The two seemingly conflicting demands on the architecture of the active center-flexible accommodation of substrate and optimal juxtaposition of residues of the catalytic triad, demonstrate the truly amazing molecular design of the AChE active center.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / chemistry*
  • Acetylcholinesterase / genetics
  • Acetylcholinesterase / metabolism*
  • Amino Acids / genetics
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Binding Sites
  • Catalysis
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary


  • Amino Acids
  • Ligands
  • Acetylcholinesterase