Human tissues have two distinct cholinesterase activities: acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase. Acetylcholinesterase functions in the transmission of nerve impulses, whereas the physiological function of butyrylcholinesterase remains unknown. An atypical form of butyrylcholinesterase or the absence of its activity leads to prolonged apnea following administration of the muscle relaxant suxamethonium. Inheritance of these butyrylcholinesterase variants is consistent with the enzyme activity being encoded in a single autosomal locus, BCHE (formerly CHE1 and E1), which has been assigned to chromosome 3. Previous in situ hybridization of a BCHE cDNA probe gave evidence of homologous sequences at 3q26 and 16q11-q23, raising the possibility of more than one locus coding for butyrylcholinesterase [H. Soreq, R. Zamir, D. Zevin-Sonkin, and H. Zakut (1987) Hum. Genet. 77: 325-328]. Using a different cDNA probe hybridized in situ to 46,XX,inv(3)(p25q21) metaphase chromosomes, we report here the localization of BCHE to a single autosomal location: 3q26.
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