Kinetic characterization of high-Activity mutants of human butyrylcholinesterase for the cocaine metabolite norcocaine

Max Zhan, Shurong Hou, Chang Guo Zhan, Fang Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


It has been known that cocaine produces its toxic and physiological effects through not only cocaine itself, but also norcocaine formed from cocaine oxidation catalysed by microsomal CYP (cytochrome P450) 3A4 in the human liver. The catalytic parameters (kcat and Km) of human BChE (butyrylcholinesterase) and its three mutants (i.e. A199S/ S287G/A328W/Y332G, A199S/F227A/S287G/A328W/E441D and A199S/F227A/S287G/A328W/Y332G) for norcocaine have been characterized in the present study for the first time and compared with those for cocaine. On the basis of the obtained kinetic data, wild-type human BChE has a significantly lower catalytic activity for norcocaine (kcat =2.8 min-1, K m =15 μM and kcat/Km =1.87×105 M -1 · min-1) compared with its catalytic activity for (-)-cocaine. The BChE mutants examined in the present study have considerably improved catalytic activities against both cocaine and norcocaine compared with the wild-type enzyme. Within the enzymes examined in the present study, the A199S/F227A/S287G/A328W/Y332G mutant (CocH3) is identified as the most efficient enzyme for hydrolysing both cocaine and norcocaine. CocH3 has a 1080- fold improved catalytic efficiency for norcocaine (kcat =2610 min-1 , Km =13 μM and kcat/Km =2.01×108 M-1 · min-1) and a 2020-fold improved catalytic efficiency for cocaine. It has been demonstrated that CocH3 as an exogenous enzyme can rapidly metabolize norcocaine, in addition to cocaine, in rats. Further kinetic modelling has suggested that CocH3 with an identical concentration with that of the endogenous BChE in human plasma can effectively eliminate both cocaine and norcocaine in a simplified kinetic model of cocaine abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-206
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Butyrylcholinesterase
  • Drug detoxification
  • Hydrolysis
  • Kinetics
  • Protein drug

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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