We have previously reported the presence and regulation of an acetylcholine-hydrolyzing enzyme in high density suspension cultures of WRL-10A fibroblasts where its activity increases 100-fold when growth is arrested. Substrate specificity, substrate inhibition, and product identification studies indicate that this enzyme is acetylcholinesterase (AChE, EC 3.1.1.7). Treatment of whole cells with 5 mM diazotized sulfanilic acid revealed that most of the AChE is located on the external surface of the cell membrane. It was also found that the enzyme is released in the medium at a rate of 0.5 U/h/mg cell protein and that within a 24-h period the de novo synthesized and liberated AChE is equivalent to 90% of the activity associated with the cells. No similar synthesis of AChE was found in six order fibroblastic cell lines examined. These and related findings indicating that acetylcholine is also present in high density populations of WRL-10A cells suggest that this unique phenotype may be used profitably in exploring further the relationship between components of the cholinergic system and non-neuronal cell growth.

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