The collagen-tailed or asymmetric forms (A) represent a major component of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) in the neuromuscular junction of higher vertebrates. They are hetero-oligomeric molecules, in which tetramers of catalytic subunits of type T (AChET) are attached to the subunits of a triple-stranded collagen "tail." We report the cloning of a rat AChE-associated collagen subunit, Q. We show that collagen tails are encoded by a single gene, COLQ. The ColQ subunits form homotrimers and readily form collagen-tailed AChE, when coexpressed with rat AChET. We found that the same ColQ subunits are incorporated, in vivo, in asymmetric forms of both AChE and butyrylcholinesterase. A splice variant from the COLQ gene encodes a proline- rich AChE attachment domain without the collagen domain but does not represent the membrane anchor of the brain tetramer. The COLQ gene is expressed in cholinergic tissues, brain, muscle, and heart, and also in noncholinergic tissues such as lung and testis.