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Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme found in a variety of tissues, including both muscle cells and red blood cells (Erythrocytes), but most notably in the nervous system, in Postsynaptic membranes, where its primary function, unsurprisingly, is to break down the Neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. Acetylcholinesterase hydrolyses acetylcholine into Choline and Acetic acid[1]. This is important, as if acetlycholine were to be left un-hydrolysed, the Ion channels in the postsynaptic membrane would remain open, preventing another Resting potential from forming, which would, in turn, prevent the induction of another Action potential.

Various substances inhibit acetylcholinesterase, including the Botulinum toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum which thrives in badly-tinned food. Even small amounts of this toxin can kill a grown man, which shows how important acetylcholinesterase is. However, minute amounts of the toxin are used in the well known commercial substance Botox


  1. Marie T. O'Toole, 2003. Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health. 7th Edition. W.B. Saunders Company.
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