Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) into choline and acetic acid. ACh is an important neurotransmitter involved in the transmission of nerve impulses across synapses in the nervous system. After ACh has completed its function, it needs to be rapidly broken down to prevent overstimulation of the postsynaptic cell. This is where AChE comes into play.
AChE is found in the synaptic cleft, where it is responsible for the hydrolysis of ACh into choline and acetic acid. Choline is then taken back into the presynaptic neuron, where it can be used to synthesize more ACh. The breakdown of ACh by AChE is a key mechanism in regulating the duration and intensity of synaptic transmission.
AChE inhibitors are a class of drugs that prevent the breakdown of ACh by AChE. These drugs are used to treat a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, myasthenia gravis, and glaucoma. Inhibition of AChE leads to an increase in the concentration of ACh in the synaptic cleft, which can enhance synaptic transmission.