Transgenic plants as a source for the bioscavenging enzyme, human butyrylcholinesterase

Plant Biotechnol J. 2010 Oct;8(8):873-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2010.00515.x.


Organophosphorous pesticides and nerve agents inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase at neuronal synapses and in neuromuscular junctions. The resulting accumulation of acetylcholine overwhelms regulatory mechanisms, potentially leading to seizures and death from respiratory collapse. While current therapies are only capable of reducing mortality, elevation of the serum levels of the related enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) by application of the purified protein as a bioscavenger of organophosphorous compounds is effective in preventing all symptoms associated with poisoning by these toxins. However, BChE therapy requires large quantities of enzyme that can easily overwhelm current sources. Here, we report genetic optimization, cloning and high-level expression of human BChE in plants. Plant-derived BChE is shown to be biochemically similar to human plasma-derived BChE in terms of catalytic activity and inhibitor binding. We further demonstrate the ability of the plant-derived bioscavenger to protect animals against an organophosphorous pesticide challenge.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Butyrylcholinesterase / biosynthesis*
  • Butyrylcholinesterase / chemistry
  • Butyrylcholinesterase / genetics
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / toxicity
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism*
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Butyrylcholinesterase