Butyrylcholinesterase in SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells

Seda Onder, Lawrence M. Schopfer, Wei Jiang, Ozden Tacal, Oksana Lockridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Cultured SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells are used in neurotoxicity assays. These cells express markers of the cholinergic and dopaminergic systems. Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity has been reported in these cells. Neurotoxic organophosphate compounds that inhibit AChE, also inhibit butyrylcholinesterase (BChE). We confirmed the presence of AChE in the cell lysate by activity assays, Western blot, and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) of immunopurified AChE. A nondenaturing gel stained for AChE activity identified the catalytically active AChE in SH-SY5Y cells as the unstable monomer. We also identified immature BChE in the cell lysate. The concentration of active BChE protein was similar to that of active AChE protein. The rate of substrate hydrolysis by AChE was 10-fold higher than substrate hydrolysis by BChE. The higher rate was due to the 10-fold higher specific activity of AChE over BChE (5000 units/mg for AChE; 500 units/mg for BChE). Neither cholinesterase was secreted. Tryptic peptides of immunopurified AChE and BChE were identified by LC-MS/MS on an Orbitrap Lumos Fusion mass spectrometer. The unfolded protein chaperone, binding immunoglobulin protein BiP/GRP78, was identified in the mass spectral data from all cholinesterase samples, suggesting that BiP was co-extracted with cholinesterase. This suggests that the cytoplasmic cholinesterases are immature forms of AChE and BChE that bind to BiP. It was concluded that SH-SY5Y cells express active AChE and active BChE, but the proteins do not mature to glycosylated tetramers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • BiP chaperone
  • Butyrylcholinesterase
  • Human neuroblastoma cells
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Western blot

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Toxicology


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