Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) catalyzes hydrolysis of acetylcholine thereby terminating cholinergic nerve impulses for efficient neurotransmission. Human AChE (hAChE) is a target of nerve agent and pesticide organophosphorus compounds that covalently attach to the catalytic Ser203 residue. Reactivation of inhibited hAChE can be achieved with nucleophilic antidotes, such as oximes. Understanding structural and electrostatic (i.e. protonation states) determinants of the catalytic and reactivation processes is crucial to improve design of oxime reactivators. Here we report X-ray structures of hAChE conjugated with a reversible covalent inhibitor 4K-TMA (4K-TMA:hAChE) at 2.8 Å resolution and of 4K-TMA:hAChE conjugate with oxime reactivator methoxime, MMB4 (4K-TMA:hAChE:MMB4) at 2.6 Å resolution, both at physiologically relevant room temperature, as well as cryo-crystallographic structure of 4K-TMA:hAChE at 2.4 Å resolution. 4K-TMA acts as a substrate analogue reacting with the hydroxyl of Ser203 and generating a reversible tetrahedral hemiketal intermediate that closely resembles the first tetrahedral intermediate state during hAChE-catalyzed acetylcholine hydrolysis. Structural comparisons of room temperature with cryo-crystallographic structures of 4K-TMA:hAChE and published mAChE complexes with 4K-TMA, as well as the effect of MMB4 binding to the peripheral anionic site (PAS) of the 4K-TMA:hAChE complex, revealed only discrete, minor differences. The active center geometry of AChE, already highly evolved for the efficient catalysis, was thus indicative of only minor conformational adjustments to accommodate the tetrahedral intermediate in the hydrolysis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). To map protonation states in the hAChE active site gorge we collected 3.5 Å neutron diffraction data paving the way for obtaining higher resolution datasets that will be needed to determine locations of individual hydrogen atoms.
Keywords: 4K-TMA; Neutron diffraction; Reversible covalent inhibitor; Room temperature; X-ray diffraction; hAChE.