Transgenic plants as a source for the bioscavenging enzyme, human butyrylcholinesterase

Brian C. Geyer, Latha Kannan, Irene Cherni, Ryan R. Woods, Hermona Soreq, Tsafrir Leket-Mor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Organophosphorous pesticides and nerve agents inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase at neuronal synapses and in neuromuscular junctions. The resulting accumulation of acetylcholine overwhelms regulatory mechanisms, potentially leading to seizures and death from respiratory collapse. While current therapies are only capable of reducing mortality, elevation of the serum levels of the related enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) by application of the purified protein as a bioscavenger of organophosphorous compounds is effective in preventing all symptoms associated with poisoning by these toxins. However, BChE therapy requires large quantities of enzyme that can easily overwhelm current sources. Here, we report genetic optimization, cloning and high-level expression of human BChE in plants. Plant-derived BChE is shown to be biochemically similar to human plasma-derived BChE in terms of catalytic activity and inhibitor binding. We further demonstrate the ability of the plant-derived bioscavenger to protect animals against an organophosphorous pesticide challenge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-886
Number of pages14
JournalPlant Biotechnology Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Codon usage
  • Enzyme therapy
  • Nerve agents
  • Organophosphorous compounds
  • Pesticides
  • Transgenic plants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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