Research Articles

Atomic structure of acetylcholinesterase from Torpedo californica: a prototypic acetylcholine-binding protein

Science  23 Aug 1991:
Vol. 253, Issue 5022, pp. 872-879
DOI: 10.1126/science.1678899

Abstract

The three-dimensional structure of acetylcholinesterase from Torpedo californica electric organ has been determined by x-ray analysis to 2.8 angstrom resolution. The form crystallized is the glycolipid-anchored homodimer that was purified subsequent to solubilization with a bacterial phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C. The enzyme monomer is an alpha/beta protein that contains 537 amino acids. It consists of a 12-stranded mixed beta sheet surrounded by 14 alpha helices and bears a striking resemblance to several hydrolase structures including dienelactone hydrolase, serine carboxypeptidase-II, three neutral lipases, and haloalkane dehalogenase. The active site is unusual because it contains Glu, not Asp, in the Ser-His-acid catalytic triad and because the relation of the triad to the rest of the protein approximates a mirror image of that seen in the serine proteases. Furthermore, the active site lies near the bottom of a deep and narrow gorge that reaches halfway into the protein. Modeling of acetylcholine binding to the enzyme suggests that the quaternary ammonium ion is bound not to a negatively charged "anionic" site, but rather to some of the 14 aromatic residues that line the gorge.

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