What is the role of acetylcholinesterase at a synapse?

1 Answer
Apr 22, 2018


Breaks down ACh.


To explain its function, I will have to explain this first:

  • After a neurotransmitter is released and has conducted the impulse to the next cell(s), one option that it has is to be broken down by enzymes.
  • Enzyme degradation is the process by which a neurotransmitter is altered so that it can no longer act on a receptor.

Now to the question:

  • As suggested from the suffix "ase," acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) at the synaptic cleft (the space between two nerve cells).
  • It breaks down ACh into acetic acid and choline.
  • AChE effectively stops the signal, allowing the pieces to be recycled and rebuilt into new neurotransmitters for the next message.
  • Acetylcholinesterase has one of the fastest reaction rates of any of our enzymes, breaking up each molecule in about 80 microseconds. (This is mostly due to its location because nerves need to be able to send messages instantaneously).
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