Cerebrospinal fluid gradients of acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase activity in healthy aging

John R. Atack, Conrad May, Jeffrey A. Kaye, Stanley I. Rapoport

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) activities were measured in 13 sequential 2 ml aliquots of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) obtained by lumbar puncture from 7 young and 7 elderly healthy normal subjects. The slopes of the rostrocaudal gradients of AChE and BChE were calculated and compared to those of total protein concentration and the major dopaminergic metabolite homovanillic acid (HVA), for which a pronounced rostrocaudal gradient (with highest concentrations of HVA in more rostral CSF) is consistent with HVA originating primarily from the brain. AChE activity was higher in more caudal fractions of young, but not elderly subjects and there was a significant difference between the mean AChE gradient slopes in the young and old groups. These results suggest that the spinal cord makes an important contribution to AChE activity in lumbar CSF. Furthermore, the absence of a negative AChE gradient in elderly subjects may be the result of a greater rate of entry of cerebral AChE into CSF, possibly as a consequence of an increased ventricular surface area and shorter diffusion distances in atrophic elderly brains. In contrast to AChE, BChE activity and total protein concentrations were higher in more caudal CSF fractions of not only young but also old subjects. In addition, there was a significant correlation between the gradient slopes of BChE activity and total protein concentrations, suggesting that the majority of BChE activity in lumbar CSF derives from the same source as the majority of total protein, namely plasma. The diffuse (i.e. brain and spinal cord) origin of AChE in lumbar CSF would explain the relatively modest changes in lumbar CSF AChE activity in diseases involving certain central cholinergic systems, most notably Alzheimer's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-538
Number of pages6
JournalNeurochemistry International
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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