Nerve agents and organophosphorus pesticides make a covalent bond with the active site serine of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), resulting in inhibition of AChE activity and toxic symptoms. AChE in red blood cells (RBCs) serves as a surrogate for AChE in the nervous system. Mass spectrometry analysis of adducts on RBC AChE could provide evidence of exposure. Our goal was to develop a method of immunopurifying human RBC AChE in quantities adequate for detecting exposure by mass spectrometry. For this purpose, we immobilized 3 commercially available anti-human acetylcholinesterase monoclonal antibodies (AE-1, AE-2, and HR2) plus 3 new monoclonal antibodies. The monoclonal antibodies were characterized for binding affinity, epitope mapping by pairing analysis, and nucleotide and amino acid sequences. AChE was solubilized from frozen RBCs with 1% (v/v) Triton X-100. A 16 mL sample containing 5.8 μg of RBC AChE was treated with a quantity of soman model compound that inhibited 50% of the AChE activity. Native and soman-inhibited RBC AChE samples were immunopurified on antibody-Sepharose beads. The immunopurified RBC AChE was digested with pepsin and analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry on a 6600 Triple-TOF mass spectrometer. The aged soman-modified PheGlyGluSerAlaGlyAlaAlaSer (FGESAGAAS) peptide was detected using a targeted analysis method. It was concluded that all 6 monoclonal antibodies could be used to immunopurify RBC AChE and that exposure to nerve agents could be detected as adducts on the active site serine of RBC AChE.
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