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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 321213, 8 pages
Review Article

Acetylcholinesterase as a Biomarker in Environmental and Occupational Medicine: New Insights and Future Perspectives

Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Technologies (DiSTeBA), University of Salento, Via Prov.le Lecce-Monteroni, 73100 Lecce, Italy

Received 27 April 2013; Accepted 20 June 2013

Academic Editor: Tiziano Verri

Copyright © 2013 Maria Giulia Lionetto et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is a key enzyme in the nervous system. It terminates nerve impulses by catalysing the hydrolysis of neurotransmitter acetylcholine. As a specific molecular target of organophosphate and carbamate pesticides, acetylcholinesterase activity and its inhibition has been early recognized to be a human biological marker of pesticide poisoning. Measurement of AChE inhibition has been increasingly used in the last two decades as a biomarker of effect on nervous system following exposure to organophosphate and carbamate pesticides in occupational and environmental medicine. The success of this biomarker arises from the fact that it meets a number of characteristics necessary for the successful application of a biological response as biomarker in human biomonitoring: the response is easy to measure, it shows a dose-dependent behavior to pollutant exposure, it is sensitive, and it exhibits a link to health adverse effects. The aim of this work is to review and discuss the recent findings about acetylcholinesterase, including its sensitivity to other pollutants and the expression of different splice variants. These insights open new perspective for the future use of this biomarker in environmental and occupational human health monitoring.