AF64A: An Active Site Directed Irreversible Inhibitor of Choline Acetyltransferase

K. Sandberg, R. L. Schnaar, M. McKinney, I. Hanin, A. Fisher, J. T. Coyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Abstract: Ethylcholine mustard aziridinium ion (AF64A, MEChMAz) has been proposed as a cholinergic neuronspecific neurotoxin. We report that in further studies on its mechanism of action incubation of the cholinergic neuroblastoma × glioma cell line, NG‐108‐15, with 100 μM AF64A resulted in a rapid decrease in cellular choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) activity which preceded cytotoxicity. Thus, a 60–85% decrease in ChAT activity was measured within 5 h of AF64A exposure, whereas cell lysis (measured as the release of the cytosolic enzyme lactate dehydrogenase into the medium) did not become apparent until 18 h of AF64A exposure. This led us to examine the effects of AF64A on partially purified ChAT. We report a concentration‐ and time‐dependent inhibition of partially purified ChAT by AF64A that could not be reversed by dialysis but could be prevented by coincubation of the enzyme and AF64A with choline but not with acetyl‐coenzyme A. We present kinetic evidence that choline and AF64A compete for the same site on the enzyme. In addition, thiosulfate, which inactivates the aziridinium ion, eliminated AF64A's capacity to inhibit the enzyme. AF64A also irreversibly inhibited partially purified choline kinase and acetylcholinesterase but not lactate dehydrogenase, alcohol dehydrogenase, carboxypeptidase A, or chymotrypsinogen, enzymes that do not use choline as a substrate or product. Thus, the data suggest that AF64A acts as an irreversible active site directed inhibitor of ChAT and possibly other enzymes recognizing choline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-445
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1985


  • Choline acetyltransferase
  • Enzyme inhibition
  • Ethylcholine mustard aziridinium ion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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