Previous published work has led to the hypothesis that the activatable esterase of chemotaxis is a serine esterase of the rabbit polymorphonuclear leukocyte existing in an inert, phosphonate insusceptible form, which after activation is capable of hydrolyzing aromatic amino acid esters and being inhibited by phosphonates. In the present study, directed to the testing of this hypothesis, we have shown that rabbit peritoneal polymorphonuclear leukocytes contain three esterases capable of hydrolyzing the aromatic amino acid ester, acetyl DL-phenylalanine ß-naphthyl ester. Two of these esterases, esterase 1 and esterase 2, are inhibited by various p-nitrophenyl ethyl phosphonate esters. The inhibition of each esterase is irreversible and progressive with time. When the logarithm of the esterase activity remaining after cell and inhibitor have been in contact for a constant time is plotted against the concentration of inhibitor, a straight line results. These results support the conclusion that both esterases are serine esterases. The third esterase, esterase 3, differs from the other two by its inability to be inactivated by any of the phosphonates no matter how high the concentration of phosphonate or prolonged the period of incubation of cell with phosphonate.

The activity of esterase 1 is at least 10,000 times more easily inhibited by phosphonates than is that of esterase 2; incubating rabbit polymorphonuclear leukocytes for 15 min at 27°C with 10–9–10–8 M concentrations of various phosphonates inactivates esterase 1, but it required 10–6–10–4 M concentrations of the same phosphonates to inhibit esterase 2. The inhibition profiles of esterase 1 are distinctly different from those of esterase 2 when the two esterases are tested with the phenylalkylphosphonates, chloroalkylphosphonates, and alkylphosphonates.

The inhibition profile of esterase 1 is essentially the same as that of the activatable esterase of chemotaxis obtained previously when the same three homologous series of phosphonates were tested for their ability to protect against deactivation by the chemotactic factor or give chemotactic-dependent inhibition.

It is tentatively concluded that esterase 1 of the rabbit peritoneal neutrophil is the activated form of the activatable esterase of chemotaxis.

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