Characterization of a novel butyrylcholinesterase point mutation (p.Ala34Val), "silent" with mivacurium

Biochem Pharmacol. 2014 Dec 1;92(3):476-83. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2014.09.014. Epub 2014 Sep 28.


Butyrylcholinesterase deficiency is characterized by prolonged apnea after the use of muscle relaxants (suxamethonium or mivarcurium) in patients who have mutations in the BCHE gene. Here, we report a case of prolonged neuromuscular block after administration of mivacurium leading to the discovery of a novel BCHE variant (c.185C>T, p.Ala34Val). Inhibition studies, kinetic analysis and molecular dynamics were undertaken to understand how this mutation remote from the active center determines the "silent" phenotype. Low activity of patient plasma butyrylcholinesterase with butyrylthiocholine (BTC) and benzoylcholine, and values of dibucaine and fluoride numbers fit with a heterozygous enzyme of type atypical/silent. Kinetic analysis with succinyldithiocholine (SCdTC) as the substrate showed that Ala34Val BChE was inactive against this substrate. However, with BTC, the mutant enzyme was active, displaying an unexpected activation by excess substrate. Competitive inhibition of BTC by mivacurium gave a Ki=1.35 mM consistent with the lack of activity with the related substrate SCdTC, and with the clinical data. Molecular dynamic simulations revealed the mechanism by which mutation Ala34Val determines the silent phenotype: a chain of intramolecular events leads to disruption of the catalytic triad, so that His438 no longer interacts with Ser198, but instead forms hydrogen bonds either with residues Glu197 and Trp82, or peripheral site residue Tyr332. However, at high BTC concentration, initial binding of substrate to the peripheral site triggers restoration of a functional catalytic triad, and activity with BTC.

Keywords: Butyrylcholinesterase deficiency; Genetic diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Butyrylcholinesterase / chemistry
  • Butyrylcholinesterase / genetics*
  • Butyrylcholinesterase / metabolism*
  • Butyrylthiocholine / metabolism
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacology*
  • Isoquinolines / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Mivacurium
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents / therapeutic use
  • Pedigree
  • Point Mutation*
  • Succinylcholine / pharmacology


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Isoquinolines
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents
  • Butyrylthiocholine
  • Mivacurium
  • Butyrylcholinesterase
  • Succinylcholine