Choline Acetylase

  • David Nachmansohn
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 15)


The discovery of choline acetylase (ChAc) was the outcome of the theory that acetylcholine (ACh) is the specific operative substance in nerve activity. When the energy released by the breakdown of phosphocreatine during electrical activity of the electric organ of Electrophorus was found to be more than adequate to account for the electrical energy released, it was assumed that this energy was used as in muscle for the resynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and that in the sequence of energy transformations the breakdown of ATP preceded that of phosphocreatine. Several characteristics of ATP breakdown make it unlikely that ATP is directly associated with the elementary process of bioelectrogenesis. In particular, the requirement of the high turnover time is not satisfied. If the theory that ACh was the trigger required in the elementary process was correct, then it appeared likely that the energy released by ATP breakdown should be used, at least partly, for the resynthesis of ACh. This assumption proved to be correct: on addition of ATP to cell-free extracts prepared from brain and electric organs, the first enzymatic acetylation of choline in a soluble system was achieved (Nachmansohn and Machado 1943). The evidence that the energy of the breakdown of ATP may be used for a biosynthetic reaction outside the glycolytic cycle was rather unexpected. It opened the way for a detailed analysis of the mechanism of acetylation in general which at the time, in the early 1940’s, began to attract increasingly the interest of many biochemists.


Electric Organ Pigeon Liver Sciatic Nerve Fiber Thenic Acid Choline Acetylase 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1963

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  • David Nachmansohn

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