Acetylcholinesterase was studied in human red cells that had been fractionated on Ficoll/Triosil density gradients into classes representing different ages in vivo. Reticulocytes have negligible acetylcholinesterase activity; this is rapidly acquired on maturation to the erythrocyte. The activity per cell reaches a maximum and then, after a constant period, declines again towards the end of cell life. The maximum activity and the rates of activity gain and loss per cell are quantitatively different in adults and children. Kinetic studies showed that Vmax. follows the same age/activity profile but Km is unaffected by cell age. The acetylcholinesterase protein content, determined by quantitative crossed immunoelectrophoresis, also shows a profile of increase and then decrease with cell age but the specific activity calculated from the protein estimate shows a reverse picture in which there is a slight decrease from young to mid-age cells followed by an increase again in older cells. These results are interpreted to indicate a complex developmental picture in which the overall cell age against enzyme activity profile is determined partly by the amount of enzyme protein present and partly from the modifying effect on the enzyme activity, of interactions with an aging cell membrane.

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